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Runners reflect on Boston Marathon experience

Covington resident Tracey Ashall and running partner Tom Pfleeger of Mississippi ran the Boston Marathon for the second year in a row. Ashall said it was emotional experience to cross the finish line as she reflected on the bombing that took three lives and injured many more last year. (Special photo)

Covington resident Tracey Ashall and running partner Tom Pfleeger of Mississippi ran the Boston Marathon for the second year in a row. Ashall said it was emotional experience to cross the finish line as she reflected on the bombing that took three lives and injured many more last year. (Special photo)

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Brent Fields of Covington knew he just had to return to the Boston Marathon to run for those who lost their lives and were affected by the bombing in 2013. Fields said the atmosphere at the finish line is like no other race, with volunteers and supporters encouraging and congratulating the runners.

COVINGTON — Although she already completed the race, Tracey Ashall of Covington was just two blocks from where the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon last year.

This year she decided to return to the city in support of those who lost their lives and were injured in the terrorist attack.

“I felt the emotion coming as I saw the finish line and began really thinking about the bombing last year,” Ashall said. “It was very emotional even though I didn’t see it happen, it still affected us. We weren’t able to get out of the city. So I wanted to return and show my support and that we weren’t afraid.”

Ashall noted the security was increased this year with more detection dogs, police units and bag checks along the 26-mile course, but it didn’t stop the crowds and runners from gathering in support of the city.

The Boston Marathon received an increase of 9,000 entries, according to Ashall and about 97 percent finished the race. Setting another personal best, Ashall finished this year’s marathon in three hours and 23 minutes.

“It was phenomenal. People come from all over to support this race, and it was extra special this year because of what happened. You could see the determination and grit of the racers. When I felt pain, I looked at those beside me and pushed through,” Ashall said.

Meeting a coach with one prosthetic leg, Ashall said she was encouraged by his message of perseverance.

“He ran it to show people that it’s possible to overcome any adversity,” she said. “I was very honored to be able to return and put a close to last year’s awful experience and to bring back the attention to it being a marathon rather than highlighting the terrorism that looms around it.”

Another Covington resident also returned to the Boston Marathon this year with a more resilient attitude. Brent Fields was unaware of the explosions at last year’s race until phone messages and calls began flooding his phone.

“I had finished about an hour beforehand and was just stepping out of the cab about a minute before the bombs went off,” Fields said. “I went to the train station from my hotel to meet my parents in the city when my sister called and asked if I was OK. She explained there were explosions near the finish line, and then the phone messages from everyone who knew I was at the race started to come in.”

Fields left Boston the next day heading back to Covington and it wasn’t until he was on a recovery run that he realized how blessed he was to still be able to run.

“I just knew I had to go back. I still can’t absorb or understand who and why someone would do something like that. It’s very sad,” Fields said. “The Boston Marathon is an experience like no other. The finish line is so beautiful and joyful, and this year it was an even more emotional experience that I was so privileged to be able to participate in.”