J ami Whitney and Jay Tracy were part of history last week.
Whitney, a Granville resident, and Tracy, a former Whitehall resident who now lives in the Syracuse area, were among more than 35,000 runners who participated last Monday in the 118th Boston Marathon, helping heal a city beset by last year’s tragic bombings.
“The amount of people who cheer you on is amazing. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” Whitney said.
A crowd of one million, double the usual number, came out to watch the largest field of runners in the history of the event.
“It’s amazing the amount of people who were there. They lined both sides of the street. It was wall to wall people the whole way. It was amazing to see,” Tracy said.
Although neither man mentioned a personal connection to last year’s senseless acts of violence, which killed three people and injured 264, they said it was impossible not to notice the impact it had on this year’s event.
“To be on the course and see where the bombs went off. Some of the glass is still papered in the store fronts. It’s still not back to normal,” Whitney said.
Tracy said security was very tight.
“I know it was not easy for my wife and kids. They had to go through a number of security checkpoints just to get into the marathon.”
Whitney said there military helicopters and a large number of canine units.
“There was military or police officers every 100 or 200 yards along the course.”
Runners weren’t allowed to carry hydration packs and the size of the water bottles and fanny packs they could carry was restricted.
Despite the increased security measures, Whitney said it did little to damper the spirit and enthusiasm of the runners and the crowd assembled to watch them.
“It didn’t seem to affect the atmosphere at all,” Whitney said.
The marathon was the third for each man and the first time either had run the Boston Marathon.
In order to qualify for the event, each man, both of whom are 42, had to finish a sanctioned marathon in at least 3 hours and 15 minutes. Coincidentally, each achieved that feat at last year’s Burlington (Vt.) Marathon, although neither was certain they would compete in the Boston Marathon.
“I wasn’t sure but the more I thought about it I just figured it was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Tracy said. “My goal, since starting to run marathons, was to eventually qualify for Boston. Once that happened and in lieu of last year’s bombings, I really wanted to be part of this year’s event. They told us in the Athlete’s Village that 68 percent of this year’s participants were first timers. I am proud to be one of those first timers.”
Both began the race very strong before losing some steam near the end.
“I had a good first half of the race. The first 13 miles I was where I wanted to be. But the second half I hit a bit of a wall,” said Whitney, who finished in 3 hours and 36 minutes, a few minutes off his goal of 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Tracy said his goal was to finish in less than 3 hours, a goal he missed by 3 minutes and 32 seconds.
“It was very warm, a lot warmer than I expected. I ran once in the last three month above 60 degrees and I get out there and it’s above 60 degrees. For 26.2 miles, that was tough,” Tracy said.
Whitney said the images of last year’s event and the runners around him gave him strength as he endured sore legs and a painful blister during the last several miles of the race.
“To see the perseverance of other people, not yourself, but people who have injuries and people in wheelchairs. One woman I passed had a prosthetic leg and I passed the Hoyt Team, a father and son in a wheelchair. To see that perseverance, it was inspiring to say the least,” Whitney said.
Although neither is ready to commit to next year’s event, they each said it was experience they would never forget.
“It was definitely worth it. I’m very, very happy with the experience. I can’t say enough about the people who put it on.” Whitney said.