Reflections on Boston Marathon 2013

Woke up in a daze. It's almost 5pm. Boston time. Momentarily disorientated, I tried to find my bearing. Gazed out of the window. There's still daylight. All seemed calm. Yes, I'm still at the hotel in Boston. Slowly, the pieces were beginning to fall back into place....I came back after the race at about 1:30pm. Took a shower and went straight to bed. Apparently, I was 'out of it' for a few hours.

I was curious to find out who the champions were. So I clicked on the TV.

Then, the surreal moment came. CNN news was on. I saw the subtitle that read something like Explosions at the Boston Marathon. 2 dead and 40+ wounded. This can't be happening!? I must be dreaming! In Boston? I am just 2 blocks away! But it was really happening. Almost all the channels were on the bombing too....

15th April 2013, or Patriot's day started out as I had anticipated. At 6 am, runners flocked to Tremont Street for the bus ride that would take us to Hopkinton; Later I mingled with fellow Malaysians Lim Huat and Tan Wah Sing at the Athlete's village; We would eventually assemble at our respective corrals for the flag off at 10am. That's how the 117th Boston Marathon started.

The run was particularly enjoyable. I remember taking my time to stop over to kiss a Wellesley girl as I had promised the boys back home. The crowds were fantastically supportive. The last 10km wasn't easy but bearable. I even managed a short sprint to the finish line to clock a decent 3:11:36. All ended pretty well. So I thought. This is a good way to wrap up my Boston run....Because that would probably be my last Boston for now.

Yet, all that paled in comparison to the events that unfolded at 14:09.

I followed the news closely to find out more. The pieces of the puzzle were still coming in. The authorities had warned the public to stay home or at their hotels for fear of another explosion. At that point, it was still unclear how many were wounded though the figures were still escalating in the ensuing hours. Later, President Obama addressed the nation at 6:00pm. The nation was trying to grapple with the brutality of such an onslaught. This would be an event that not only shook the nation but also the world. The questions on everyone's mind were: Why? And Who had done it?

Concurrently, a flurry of phone calls, sms, whatsapp messages etc were coming in. I assured friends and family that I was OK. They were perhaps under the impression that I was among the crowd of spectators or at the finishing line when the 2 bombs went off. In fact, I was not even there. But the fact of such close proximity of the bombings to my hotel was enough to shake me to my core and send shivers down my spine. Why I didn't hear the sound of the explosion baffles me even until today.

Everyone struggled to find meaning in this. Whether you were there at the scene, or thousands of miles away. Perhaps there is no meaning in any of this. It seemed so random and senseless. The dead or wounded happened to be there at the wrong place and the wrong time. In moments like these, I found myself praying. Asking God to intervene and help me make sense of this. Pleading and interceding for the lives of the wounded. It seemed there was not much else to do but wait.

I found out later about the heroic acts of those first responders who rushed to the explosion sites to evacuate the wounded despite the imminent danger of other explosions. Runners offered help and some even went to the hospitals to donate blood.

The vicious hit intended to strike fear into our hearts, was not only aimed at the Bostonians but also the international community. And along with it, the running community as well. But despite that, they picked the wrong crowd to do it.

Yes, perhaps this body may break. But the spirit will live on. And with it, our hopes and love kindled would be many folds stronger than the intended fear and destruction. My initial plan was to take a break from Boston next year. But in light of this, I am determined to come back again for 2014. To stand in the gap and be counted. Perhaps I am crazy. But FYI, runners are crazy lot of people. And we are more resilient than you think.

Personally, despite the event, I was overwhelmed by the concern and love shown by fellow runners, friends and family across the globe. To tell you the truth, for several months, I have been struggling with depression. I have increasingly become more isolated and cynical. Inexplicable anger and frustration tore at my soul. I struggled hopelessly as I fought daily against fear and doubt. And when all you could see is humanity that is ridden with greed, hatred and evil, the outlook was nothing but grim. Somehow, this event shed some light on it. It brought me face to face with evil and I came out of it realizing that no amount of evil or darkness shall prevail. Ultimately, love will conquer all. And love is a choice that we can make. Instead of succumbing to fear and evil, we have an option. If we choose to overcome. And above it all, I realized that God still loves me. And He has shown this through those countless messages and calls from all my friends and family. People whom I thought have long forgotten me....

My heart goes out to the victims and their family. I cannot presume to understand the pain that they now carry with them. But as a fellow runner and a human being, I can assure you two things. I will keep on praying and I shall stand with you. You are not alone.


  1. When I woke up for work and the wife told me about the tragedy, the first thing I said to her was "Oh my God! I hope Francis is safe!' I only breathe a sigh of relieve when I heard from Jamie you were safe.

    Even though I was a world away, I was devastated by the news and wept inside for the fallen. Even by the end of the day I simply couldn't digest the horror I was reading and seeing online.

    A sport that held no discrimination and welcomed everyone, big or small, white or black, short or tall, boy or girl was violated badly!

    The people who orchestrated this needs to be found and made to pay, painfully if I might add. They picked a wrong bunch of people to scare though cos we will not be cowered by them. I will still go out and run in defiance of these animals.

    I stand with you and the rest of the world in praying for the victims and their loved ones.

    1. hear hear Nick. We stand with them as one.

  2. Hi Francis, I knew the news that morning from a friend, before departed to work. I wasn't believe and checked the news, thought it may be not at the marathon venue. Who would want to target a marathon? But no, it was at the finishing line. As I read the news I scrolled on your blog to see any update from you. Pray hard.

    Although the event was half way around the world, but it appeared so close to me. Anytime, I might be that person at a finishing line of a race. Me, and a lot of runner friends we know. Friends, and families.

    Disturb by the news, I couldn't help to ask "why? why?". What's wrong with human. What happen to them?

    1. kent, evidently, evil is out there. in fact Boston police has identified the 2 suspects. one was shot dead. the second now on the run. regardless of the motive or even if it was a random thing, we refuse to be intimidated by this. we as runners and fellow human being will stand strong together.

  3. Always nice to have everyone home safely.. What gets me every time is when the captain of the plane says "Selamat pulang" when we touch down. Home is where the heart is. Let's pray we've a better future.

    1. yup. good to be home. the good or the bad, it's still home.


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