Heather Johnson returned from Boston Sunday a little weary, but surprisingly upbeat despite the bombings that tore through the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Johnson ran in the prestigious event and had finished the 26.2 mile race approximately an hour and 40 minutes before two explosions near the race finish line killed three people and injured over 250.
“It was very emotional,” said Johnson. “By then Chris (Kent) and I were back at our apartment, and I had my feet up and I was relaxing and trying to drink some water and recover a little bit. We just heard a bunch of sirens but it’s not unusual to hear sirens during a race, because people hurt themselves in races. So we didn’t think anything of it.”
It wasn’t until the Fruitvale couple started getting texts and Facebook messages from Greater Trail residents asking if they were okayjim, that they became aware of the bombings.
“We turned on the television to find out what was going on and saw all this chaos happening, and at that point I started trying to get a hold of family and friends and people who were worried about us.”
Despite the harrowing events, Johnson and Kent stayed in Boston for the remainder of the week as the police continued to hunt down the suspects.
“We were in Boston until Sunday, and through the whole ordeal the city was very, very positive and very welcoming to the tourists,” she said. “There was never a point where we felt we should go home. We really enjoyed ourselves, all in all it was a really positive experience and I see the city in a very good way, just the way they handled everything.”
The attack was traumatic for many, but for Johnson, while the emotional impact at the time was undeniable, she’s determined not to let it affect her and the way she approaches her sport.
“I can’t let it change the way I look at races, or I’m just never going to enjoy it as much as I use to,” said Johnson.
“That’s one of my strengths in racing is to be able to forget about stuff that could negatively affect me, and just concentrate on the positive, and so far it works for me so I just need to stick to my plan.”
Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev carried out the devastating attack on the Boston Marathon.
Using improvised bombs made from pressure cookers, the Russian-born brothers detonated two devices at the race. Three days after the outrage, the pair were involved in a dramatic gun battle with police on the streets of Boston. Tamerlan, 26, was gunned down and died at the scene.
Dzhokhar, 19, was found several hours later hiding in a boat in a suburban backyard. He allegedly tried to kill himself but failed. He has since been charged with use of a Weapon of Mass Destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death.
When news of the arrest was released, tension broke and the city celebrated.
“You could feel the city getting more and more tense,” explained Johnson. “But when they finally caught him . . . the city just went up into a big party, and after that it was just an amazing experience.”
But lost in the collateral damage of the blasts is the incredible accomplishment of Johnson and 27,000 others that ran in and completed the race.
It was just the third marathon for the 31 year old who finished the run in a time of 3:11:05, a great result on the difficult course. When asked if she would participate in the Boston Marathon again, Johnson did not hesitate.
“Absolutely,” she said. “I’m hoping to go back when I’m 40 and at that point I can race in the (40-45) age group and not have to compete against the elite.”
Johnson is still in recovery mode from the punishing race, but is determined to emerge stronger from the experience. In spite of all else, the talented runner fully intends to stick to the plan.