Tag Archives: Boston Marathon

Runners Return to Boston Marathon

One year ago, on April 15, 2013, Kara Zech Thelen and Terry Carella both managed to cross the finish line at last year’s Boston Marathon minutes before two bombs exploded at 2:49 p.m. Both felt the shock of the events of that day, but the co-workers and friends are not deterred from running this year’s race.  They will toe the start line in Hopkinton, Mass., on Patriot’s Day like every Boston marathoner has done for the past 118 years.

Zech Thelen, who finished the 2013 race at the 3:44:04 mark, and Carella, who finished in 3:53:08, shared their experience with the media and on the Cooley blog site upon their return from last year’s race.  American writer and runner Hal Higdon, who is a longtime contributor to Runner’s World Magazine and author of 34 books, knew that this story needed to be told. Both Cooley runners’ accounts of that day have been included in the recently released book 4:09:43.  The book describes Boston 2013, “through the eyes of those who ran the race, their stories gathered from the social network.”

Kara Zech Thelen (center) is in good spirits as she crosses the half-way point — 13.1 miles — of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

“It was eerily silent for several minutes (after the explosions) as I tried to gather myself and make sense of it all. Then the sirens sounded and the police cars rushed in,” recalls Zech Thelen. “That day will be engraved in my mind forever, but the tragic events have not scared me from returning to Boston. Instead, I look forward to joining my fellow runners once again, to collectively announce that no act of terror can chase us from our own streets—to join together to cultivate healing and peace.”

Carella didn’t realize that her decision to go back to finish line to get her medal would put her in harm’s way.​

“I had gone through the finish chute, received the blanket they give each finisher, grabbed some food, and made it to the race buses, when I asked someone about the medals,” said Carella.

Terry Carella as she approaches the turn on to Boylston Street and nears the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Terry Carella as she approaches the turn on to Boylston Street and nears the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

“I had to go back several blocks, making my way against all the finish traffic.  As I got near the finish area, I heard an enormous blast then saw a tremendous amount of smoke.  I said to the woman next to me, ‘This is not good.’ A few seconds later, we heard and saw the second bomb go off – then we all knew it was on purpose.  At that point we all walked as fast as we could to get away from the area.”

As for this year’s Boston, Zech Thelen and Carella each have been doing the usual hard training needed to prepare for a marathon, but running in Boston 2014 will be especially meaningful.

​“As always, it is an honor to be a part of the world’s oldest and most prestigious marathon,” stated Carella. ​ “This year’s event will mean more.  It also will be a celebration of the enormous strength and heart of the Boston community. Last year’s tragic events​ only affirmed my faith, hope ​and trust in the core goodness of most people.”

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by | April 15, 2014 · 1:25 pm

Outpouring of Sacrifice and Humanity in Boston Transcends Marathon Tragedy

CArellaimageTerry Carella is the director of communications for Cooley Law School and is race director of Cooley’s annual Race for Education. Carella was a Boston Marathon finisher on Monday, April 15, 2013.  She was just a block away from the explosion after heading back to the finish to retrieve the medal she had missed upon finishing minutes earlier.  Without hesitation, Terry plans to run next year in what will be her 9th consecutive Boston Marathon.  This posting is the first of three offered by members of the Cooley Community who witnesses the horrible events of April 15, 2013.

Carella Boston

Terry Carella as she approaches the turn on to Boylston Street and nears the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

No person, especially the runners, spectators, volunteers, and Boston community, will forget the tragedy that unfolded during the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.  Or forget the overwhelming outpouring of sacrifice, love, and humanity shown by the people of Boston that day. The days between then and the ultimate capture of the final suspect were emotional as we learned of the three horrible deaths of such young, innocent people, the over 170 injured, the families affected – then the methodical discovery of the two brothers directly involved in this act of terror. What an enormous relief to all when officials caught the final suspect, and that he was caught alive.  I felt such extreme pride in all those involved – as an American and as a runner.  Just like a marathoner, we will look at this obstacle, dig in our heels, and say we will not let this stop us.  In fact it will build our resolve; make us stronger and better because of this tragedy.  If anything, it has locked my faith, hope and trust in the core goodness of most people. 


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My Boston

zech_thelen_karaKara Zech Thelen is an Assistant Professor at Cooley Law School where she teaches Research & Writing and Advanced Writing. She is also the faculty advisor to the Thomas M. Cooley Journal of Practical and Clinical Law. Zech Thelen will go back to run the Boston Marathon in 2014. This posting is the second of three offered by members of the Cooley Community who witnessed the horrible events of April 15, 2013.

 I wanted to run the Boston Marathon on a normal day. A Patriots’ Day where the temperature on the bank’s digital marquee along the course didn’t read 92 degrees. After running the brutally hilly course in last year’s sweltering heat (perhaps the hottest since 1905 when temps hit 100 degrees), I was looking forward to trying the course again in better conditions.

It was a perfect Spring day at the starting line in Hopkinton. The sky was blue and the temperature remained a refreshingly predictable 50 degrees with a gentle 9 mph east wind. The Athletes’ Village was abuzz with nervous energy. Like the other runners, I had gathered with some friends to set up camp on a mylar blanket, inventorying the critical supplies for our 26.2 mile trek: a tub of vaseline, water bottles, bananas and peanut butter, extra clothes for the finish, and extra energy packaged every way possible–from gels, to beans, to blocks, to bars. We were lubed and ready. 

In a few short hours, and after more trips to the porta johns than I care to remember, we’d be herded into our assigned start corrals and the race would begin. Significantly, this year’s race would start with a horn blast rather than the historic gunshot in honor of the victims of Newtown, Connecticut. Then I’d watch a sea of 25,000 bobbing heads around me as far as I could see, until the herd thinned around mile 10.

From town to town–Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley (the 13.1-mile, half mark)–into Boston, the miles ticked by. I had settled into a steady pace–the running so much easier without the heat. Even the crowds were more energized. Kids lined up for high fives and offered oranges. I tried to give as many slaps and suck as many wedges as I could manage. While I passed on the kisses offered by the infamous college girls from Wellesley, I couldn’t help but smile seeing men (and some women) cash in on the affectionate show of support. And I gulped the gatorade or water offered by spectators and volunteers alike.

Kara Running

Kara Zech Thelen is in good spirits as she crosses the half-way point — 13.1 miles — of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

But nothing could prepare me for what the crowd was offering in Newton, 17 miles in. There was a marked crescendo. Rows of spectators five-deep were cheering so loudly that it took my breath away. How long have they been cheering like this? I wondered. How could they keep this up? “Go Michigan!” they yelled to a runner just ahead of me wearing a University of Michigan hat. “Go girl with the green shirt and brown ponytail!” they’d shout to me. Then as I passed, “Go Kara!” once they spotted my name that I wrote with a black sharpie on the back of my bright yellow Mizunos, along with my husband’s and kids’ names around the soles–and my mantra-prayer for this special race: Fast. Strong. Grateful. Blessed. 


What an emotional wallop! The cheers were so enthusiastic and emphatic, they took my breath away. And the tears soon followed. I prayed for all the people standing there along the course. And I offered up thanks. I was overcome with gratitude for them and their jubilant support. This positive-energy exchange we had struck up was so intimate, for those few moments we were no longer strangers. I can still picture many of their faces. Spectators are a special breed–these spectators were even more special that day.

Buoyed by their energy, I neared the finish earlier than I’d expected. As I turned left onto Boylston Street and began my sprint to the finish line, I basked in the cheers from the last throng of people gathered along the final quarter mile. I crossed the bright blue and yellow finish line and felt that rush of euphoria that I suspect every Boston finisher feels. I won the gold in my personal olympics. I qualified for next year’s race by less than a minute.

I made my way through the finishers’ chute, stopping to check on a friend who was being wheeled into the medical tent. Then I bumped into two other friends who had just finished, and together we made our way to the buses two-and-a-half blocks up the street to pick up the things we left at the starting line.

Suddenly I heard a loud boom, looked back down the street, and saw brown smoke billowing from the sidewalk on the right. At first I thought that the bleachers near the finish line had collapsed. But then I heard another boom. And I saw more smoke. My two friends and I grabbed onto each other.

“Oh my God. . . there were people there,” I said in horror.

It was eerily silent for several minutes as we tried to gather ourselves and make sense of it all. Then the sirens sounded and the police cars rushed in.

I quickly reached into my bag to get my cell phone to call my husband who had been following me along the course. He had heard the explosions, but was safe a block away. We met up, along with my friends, at a hotel across the street. When we tried to return to our hotel on Newbury street, a block north of the explosions, we were turned away by police bomb squads that were sweeping the area and cordoning it off with crime-scene caution tape. We were safe but homeless and sickened.

As I walked around in a daze later that evening, the events of the day played like a movie in my head. The glorious weather, the thrill of the race, the effusive spectators, the sweet finish, my friends’ flushed faces, the explosions, the smoke, the silence, the sirens, my racing heart, my husband’s familiar voice, the simple kindnesses so many people offered in the aftermath.

With a heavy heart, I realized that I’ll never run Boston on a normal day. None of us will.

Still, I find myself repeating my race-day mantra-prayer — Fast, Strong, Grateful, Blessed — this time asking for something much larger than the race. To all those affected: May your healing be fast. May you be strong. May you know how grateful we are. And may you be blessed.


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The Kindness of Boston

thelen_jimJim Thelen is Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel of Cooley Law School.  He attended the Boston Marathon in support of his wife, Cooley assistant professor Kara Zech Thelen, whose own blog posting follows Jim’s.  This posting is the third of three offered by members of the Cooley Community who witnessed the horrible events of April 15, 2013.

 Last Monday, for the second straight year, I raced around the Boston suburbs along the city’s famed marathon route — not as marathon runner myself, but to cheer on my wife, Kara Zech Thelen, who was running the historic race.  Taking a commuter train from downtown Boston out to the Wellesley area, I was able to cheer her on at the halfway point, and, catching the same train back, cheered her on again with Fenway Park just over my shoulder, a mile from the marathon’s finish line.  Having learned from experience last year how crowded the sidewalks and streets are near the finish line on Boylston Street, this year I decided to jump on a subway to bypass the finish line and head directly to the family meeting area, three blocks down from the finish and one block over.

While Kara covered the last mile in perhaps eight-and-a-half minutes, it took me nearly three times that long to cover the same distance in the crowded, slow-moving subway!  But I knew moments after I emerged from the subway at Arlington and Boylston Streets that she had crossed the finish line about fifteen minutes earlier, thanks to the tech-savvy Boston Marathon’s smartphone app that I had been using to track her progress throughout the day.  My cell phone battery was down to 10 percent charge, taxed by the near-constant data stream I had demanded from it over the course of the race to follow my wife.

The family meeting area was a sea of energy.  Excited family members crowded around the steady stream of exhausted-but-exuberant runners, easily recognizable in their post-race foil-like mylar warming capes.  Volunteers slowly weaved their way through the crowds, pulling wagons holding pails filled with long-stemmed red roses, passing them out freely to family members to give to their runners.

I hadn’t found Kara yet, but knew we would meet up shortly.  I was excited to give her a congratulatory hug.

And then the loud, explosive boom echoed down the street corridor.  There was nothing right about the sound; everything about it was wrong, out of place.  And yet, since we couldn’t see the blast’s billowing smoke, after a slight collective pause and momentary hush on the street, the clamor picked back up. We didn’t know yet what had happened.

My cell phone rang.  It was Kara. She didn’t mention the race.

“Where are you?” Concern in her voice.

And then: “There were explosions at the finish line … I don’t know, but I think a building might have exploded.”

Shaken and uncertain now, we picked a new meeting spot, in a nearby hotel lobby where I had said goodbye and good luck to her just that morning before she was bused out to the starting line.  Sirens were wailing now.  With slow dawning horror, I had the vague notion that news of this was going to flash across the country.  I looked down at my cell phone.  Five percent charge left.  Already six missed calls, and as many voicemails.  Twelve text messages.  Family and friends didn’t know yet if we were safe.

As we sat on a bench near the hotel’s entryway, dumbfounded with the realization of what had occurred, we managed to send a few short text messages to family and friends, letting them know we were OK.

The next several hours morphed by in an anxious blur. Our cell phone batteries died, leaving us unable to communicate with friends and family, some of whom we had yet to contact. We tried to walk back to our hotel, which was a block behind where the explosions occurred, but the police had cordoned off our street, nervously sweeping for more bombs. We were literally stranded on the street then, not sure where we could go, not sure, frankly, if it was even safe to be on the street.  Kara was shivering and hungry and tired, denied the normal post-marathon recovery of nourishment, warm clothes, a hot bath, even just the chance to get off her aching legs.

And then the kindness of Boston and the marathon community took us in.

A young couple on the street, seeing Kara shivering in her race clothes and wearing the marathon finisher’s medal, gave her an orange and a protein shake.  It was all they were carrying.

A few blocks down the street, some Boston University grad students had set out hot tea and coffee, bagels, and granola bars on their sidewalk steps, cheerfully offering them to runners who walked by.

We returned to the hotel we’d left to shelter in after the race, and it graciously offered its lobby for stranded runners and their families.  Once inside, we encountered a man from Texas. As if by magic, he pulled out cell phone charger cords that matched our phones, and offered them to us to charge up our batteries so we could reconnect with concerned family, friends, and coworkers.  We sat down, exhausted, at a nearby table, and the four Chicago women next to us, marathon finishers themselves, offered us their hotel room for the night if we couldn’t get back to ours.

We were finally permitted to go back to our hotel about seven hours after the race.  The hotel staff offered complimentary glasses of wine.  Maybe on a normal post-marathon day this wouldn’t make sense, but nothing made sense that night, and Kara told me later the wine was exactly the thing to help her start to relax from the tension of the day.

And yet we couldn’t relax.  We had no choice but to immediately pack up.  Flights were still flying in and out of Boston, and we were to be on a 6:00 a.m. flight the next morning for a long-scheduled and now sorely-needed vacation.  As we walked up the sidewalk the next morning, the streets still empty and dark at the four o’clock hour, to a line of waiting taxis, a taxi driver farther up the line saw us approach.  He must have seen Kara’s brightly colored Boston Marathon finisher’s jacket, for he called out to her, “Thank you for coming to our city.”  It was the perfect thing to say.

We are so saddened by what happened in Boston, sick at heart for the families of those killed and maimed.  And yet, we were comforted by all of the small acts of kindness extended to us as mere bystanders to the horror, not physically injured ourselves.  There were so many more good people than bad in Boston that day, so many more willing to help than to hurt.

“Thank you for coming to our city” still resonated with us.  Indeed.  We’ll be back for next year’s marathon, hoping to find any number of small ways to repay the city’s kindness to us.


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