The sole Sooke runner at the Boston Marathon returned home safely last week. Twenty-five year old Sarah-Mae Pyndus experienced the recent events of the Monday, April 15 Boston marathon first hand.
After completing the marathon and enjoying the high of having run a personal best, Pyndus said she was having a post-marathon massage in the basement of building at the time the bombs went off. Everyone was asked to vacate the building; nobody really knew why.
“My first thought was that it was a shooting.” After exchanging curious glances with the masseuse, Pyndus put her shoes back on and “literally ran back to the hostel.”
“I think I was far enough away and early enough into the pandemonium downtown that people were still just walking towards Copley Square. There wasn’t a sense of urgency really. But my heart just sank and my first thought was, I’ve got to get out of here.” Copley Square is just past the marathon’s finish line, near where the explosions occurred.
After she got back to her hostel, Pyndus called her parents and debriefed them on her run. She mentioned something had happened, and then her parents “jumped online,” and that’s when everyone, including Pyndus found out what had happened.
That’s when things became very surreal for Pyndus. “Instead of getting back to the hostel and being able to say, ‘Look how good I did, I set a personal best’ and ‘congratulations,’ all of a sudden it became, ‘I’m safe,’ ‘I’m okay.’ It took me about two hours from the time I got back to the hostel to the time I could get into the shower because I was so busy contacting people,” letting them know she was okay.
Her ship, the HMCS Calgary where she works as a Naval Communicator, had been trying to contact her, along with her partner, many of her friends, and even friends of friends. She had no trouble getting online and updating people, assuring everyone that she was okay.
She had travelled to Boston on her own and ran as an individual. There’s a regular group of runners who return to the hostel year after year, and everyone in that group was accounted for, according to Pyndus.
The following day, Pyndus went with a friend for the famous Boston clam chowder. Pyndus said the streets of Boston were swarming with reporters, interviewing anyone who looked like they had been at the marathon.
That day seemed surreal, with two extremes hanging in the air. There was still the post-marathon high as “there were so many people who had completed a marathon and did really really well or run for the first time,” including Pyndus, who set a personal best that day. There were a lot of people who were celebrating and some stores were still open in the vicinity. “But then you’d look down the street and there would be cops and bomb squads…. It was eerie. … It was almost like an apocalypse movie because it was completely deserted and everything was turned over.”
And even though Homeland Security had a presence in the airport, Pyndus did not encounter any difficulties coming home.
She has no concerns about running in another event either. “I can see in the future having spectators check baggage.”
But, she says, marathons are a “large open spectator event, and that’s part of the appeal.”
“I take freezies and bananas and oranges slices from people,” along the way. Pyndus wasn’t sure that they could monitor this large number of people. The runners draw energy from the spectators, so that is an integrated part of the run. “We feed off the energy of the people.”
Pyndus started running recreationally after university and quickly became addicted. In the past three years she has completed seven marathons. In this, her most recent Boston marathon, she placed 1044th of the 9,983 female runners, placing her in the top 11 per cent. She completed in just over three hours and 22 minutes. All marathons are 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometres. Nearly 5,000 of the over 26,500 registered runners went through the final checkpoint (at 24. 8 mi, or 40 km) but did not cross the finish line due to the explosions.
This last marathon was her third consecutive Boston run. And, she says, it won’t be her last.