Local runners embrace Boston energy

Photo courtesy Dana Kunz
Tara Eckman of Jasper stopped briefly during the Boston Marathon to take a photo with her boys, Abe, Leo and Wes on Monday. Eckman was one of the nearly 36,000 registered runners in this year’s race.

Herald Sports Writer

Tara Eckman soon realized her iPod was useless.

She brought it to Boston to help her run. The music would help endure the pain, the unrehearsed times of doubt, the 26.2 miles of the 118th edition of the Boston Marathon.

Yet as she hastened down the streets of Hopkinton, later through Wellesley and Newton and eventually into Brookline and Boston, the music proved utterly inaudible, drowned by the throngs of spectators — an estimated 1 million along the race’s course — who lined each street, often 10 rows deep.

Eventually, the device just stayed off.

Too many people. Too much cheering. Too much energy.

“You just felt like, this is pointless, because the people were so loud. It was just fantastic,” said Eckman, the only runner from Dubois County in this year’s marathon. “You can’t help but feed off of it.”

Eckman was one of the nearly 36,000 registered runners in this year’s Boston Marathon, an uptick of almost 9,000 from the event’s normal number. Many of the extra spots were filled by the 5,633 runners who were unable to finish the race last April, when two homemade bombs detonated by the race’s finish line on Boylston Street, killing three people and injuring more than 250.

One year later, the day’s joy seemed to rise above all else.

“Since April 15 of last year, they anticipated April 21, 2014, so it just was incredible,” Eckman, 40, said. “It was an incredible experience for me, but for Boston as well. It was so obvious that for the city it was a cathartic day.”

Photo courtesy Dave Fuhs
Dave Fuhs posed for a photo with his daughter Emily and her son Luke. The 63-year-old Jasper resident finished his third Boston Marathon last year just 20 minutes before the explosions.

For Dave Fuhs, Monday triggered many emotions.

The 63-year-old Jasper resident finished his third Boston Marathon last year just 20 minutes before the explosions. He was a half-block from the finish line when tragedy erupted.

Fuhs’ time last April re-qualified him to run this year’s race, but recent injuries following neck surgery prevented him from making the trip. He plans to register for next year’s run.

News coverage in recent weeks, particularly the replayed clips of the chaos, has been tough for Fuhs to watch. But at the same time, Monday illuminated something very deep. In time, there was recovery. Fuhs marveled at those injured at last year’s race who were back running a year later.

“Defiance and resilience paid off,” Fuhs said. “You have to move on. And I think when you look at Boston, they have done that.”

Eckman qualified for Boston at the Carmel Marathon a mere five days after the bombings last spring, but injuries kept her from pushing for a personal best Monday. She hadn’t run for six weeks before the race, but knew she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Instead, the slower pace (3 hours, 56 minutes) allowed her to soak in the scene a bit more.

As she crossed the start line, Eckman felt a few tears well up inside. At mile No. 13, she met Dick and Rick Hoyt, the well-known father-son duo who have completed the Boston event 32 times. Rick, 52, is a spastic paraplegic with cerebral palsy. Dick, 73, pushes his son in a custom racing wheelchair.

Eckman chatted with them and took photos. For her, it was the most emotional part of the race.

Shortly thereafter, word spread that Meb Keflezighi had become the first American male to win the race since 1983. Everyone — spectators and runners — cheered and high-fived. At mile No. 17, Eckman stopped to see her husband, Brian, and their three sons, Abe, 10, Leo, 8, and Wes, 7, as well as her parents, Elmer and Marilyn Brames, and sister, Dana Kunz, all of whom made the trip from Jasper.

And along the way, she was thanked for running. Over and over again.

Eckman estimated the “Thank you for running!” cry must have come 40 to 50 times through the race.

“I’ve run in two marathons and dozens of half-marathons,” she said. “I’ve never been thanked like that before.”

Photo courtesy Giesla Potter
Alex and Giesla Potter, formerly of Dubois County, have fond memories of running the Boston Marathon is 2011. They posed for a photo shortly after that race with Alex's niece Olivia Meyer.

When Giesla and Alex Potter think back to the Boston Marathon they both ran in 2011, that’s exactly the memory that’s stuck in their minds.

Whereas most marathons, at some point, typically include a 3- to 4-mile stretch without any spectators, the route in Boston is an uninterrupted chain of volume.

“You have no idea how loud the crowd is going to be,” said Alex, 28, originally of Ferdinand. “It’s just an insane amount of yelling.”

Giesla remembers not feeling muscle pain through the race because of the atmosphere’s electricity.

Of course, it was there, “but you’re just having so much fun, you barely notice it,” she said.

And then there was Boylston.

Giesla, the daughter of Northeast Dubois boys track coach Vic Betz, remembers her husband insisting they slow down to fully embrace the moment.

“We didn’t want it to end,” she said.

The two, who now live in Bloomington, taped Monday’s race and watched it during dinner, though Giesla admits she kept an eye on the elite runners’ times during work. They both got butterflies as they watched later that night.

Fuhs wore his “Boston Strong” T-shirt to his spinning class Monday morning.

“The perfect day to wear it,” he said.

Unfortunately, the race will never be quite the same, Fuhs and the Potters agreed. Any time you look up the Boston Marathon online, Alex remarked, search results will inevitably be littered with photos of the carnage from 2013. Viewing the race live will never have quite the free-flowing feel it once had before security became heightened, said Fuhs, who saw similar measures when he ran at last fall’s New York City Marathon. Eckman said she was allowed to bring only a water bottle to the start line in Hopkinton. Even food was banned. Along the course, she noticed police stationed at every trash barrel.

“That bombing last year changed all these events,” Fuhs said.

Experiencing the race with family, especially her children, affected Eckman as well; one of last year’s bombing victims, Martin William Richard, was 8 years old.

“So you think about those things. You internalize it to your own situation,” Eckman said. “But when we were running, it was just feeding off the crowd. Taking in the energy from the crowd more than anything.

“I’m not sure there are really words for it.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.

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