Written by guest blogger Kelli Watling:

The 117th Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) Boston Marathon began as planned with elite runners racing at near record speeds, fans lining the course, perfect weather, and nearly 23,000 runners hoping to run personal bests in the most prestigious race of their lives. For me, this day would also be my wedding day. My fiancé, Robert and I set out to accomplish two goals that day: to run a great race and get married that evening in the Public Garden. 

The Boston Marathon is one of five world marathon majors that for many represents a lifetime achievement. Statistics show that only 10% of all marathoners qualify for Boston. For days before and after the race, Boston Common and other city attractions are filled with runners, their families, and friends. Cabs are hard to come by, restaurants are filled to capacity and shops are booming with business. It is a wonderful time to be in Boston!

The marathon is an event celebrated by many across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Fans line the 26.2 miles of road from the start in Hopkinton to the finish along Boylston Street in Boston providing inspiration to thousands of complete strangers as they endure the challenging course.  The camaraderie among runners and nearly 500,000 spectators is one of my favorite parts of the race and this year would be no different!

Boston BrideMy fiancé and I ran exceptionally well. Robert achieved a personal record (PR) and I crossed the finish line in time to make my bridal hair and makeup appointments. I was relieved the most difficult part of our day was over with both of us in great shape. Our wedding would soon begin! I was at the salon when tragedy struck near the finish line. This was to be a relaxing recovery between events but terrorists had other ideas. My phone was abuzz with calls and texts from family and friends near and far. As first responders heroically assisted those wounded by the explosions, the horrors of the bombing began to sink in as details of the attack were released. From the comfort of my salon chair, I was overwhelmed by a tidal wave of conflicting emotions-excitement of finishing the race and my upcoming wedding, gratitude that our family and friends were unharmed, fear of more explosions, and frustration that I was unable to help those in need. Mostly, I was filled with anger towards whoever would commit such a monstrous crime.

After the salon, I quickly donned my wedding dress and was escorted by my father to meet Robert and his family in the Public Garden. The garden would be bustling with joy and excitement on any other Marathon Monday.  But not on this day. Our wedding ceremony began in an eerie, desolate park among the piercing scream of police car sirens, ambulances and SWAT vehicles passing by. As we tried to celebrate the beginning of our lives together, my mind was filled with what was happening just a few blocks away. We could not stop thinking about those who were affected by the bombing.  Robert and I checked our phones frequently throughout the evening and were deeply saddened when the news struck of three deaths.

April 15, 2013 will always be remembered as a day of personal triumph counterbalanced with a heavy heart for the families of those who lost their lives and the hundreds who were injured. I will never forget what started out as a picturesque Boston Marathon, the horrid turn of events in an otherwise wondrous atmosphere and the terrorists who have since been brought to justice. My husband and I look forward to returning to Boston to run the 118th B.A.A Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014 and to celebrate our first anniversary in a city where runners are everywhere, cabs are hard to come by, restaurants are filled to capacity and shops are booming with business. I have no doubt the people of Boston will show their strength by coming out to cheer on the runners in record numbers; the 2014 Boston Marathon will be better than ever.

Kelli Watling, MBA, RD, LD

Lifelong Runner and Healthcare Professional

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I have not received any compensation for posting this content. The views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of A Runner’s Diary.