Streets of the Boston Marathon, Streets of the World

Boston Marathon, Bostom Marathon attack, Boston Marathon bomb, Boston Marathon finish line

The 2008 Boston Marathon finish line. (Photo: Dave Winer/Flickr: scriptingnews via Creative Commons)

My editor at The Washington Times Communities page asked me to write about yesterday’s bomb attack on the Boston Marathon from the perspective of a runner and reporter who has both run and covered events like it.

I wrote this:

The attack was meant to deafen our resolve, demoralize us, to terrorize us. For what purpose? We don’t know. Who knows why hate marauds the collective streets of the world perpetrating unspeakable evils.

That’s what the streets of Boston symbolized yesterday: the streets of the world. It’s what the streets of every major marathon come to mean on race day. The marathon is a globally unifying event, a universal symbol of perseverance in the face of adversity. It couldn’t be truer now.

You can read the entire column here. As I usually do, I tried to focus on the positive, even in the face of so much desolation.

It was hard to do. The attack on the Boston Marathon yesterday affected me in a profound way.

As news of the attack flooded in, I was instantly reminded of another dark day in America’s history. As a New Yorker, I was in the city on 9/11. Both of my roommates at the time worked within spitting distance of the World Trade Center. One of them saw one of the planes crash into the World Trade Center from a conference room in her building at the World Financial Center (a complex that also sustained damage in the attack), the other was caught on the street as the towers collapsed. I honestly didn’t know if they were alright until they arrived home to our apartment on foot hours later, one of them still covered in the dust and debris from the towers’ collapse.

It’s an image I’ll never get out of my head: my roommate’s brown hair turned gray from the building’s ash, her shoulders shaking from tears as I hugged her when she came through the door. She put her outfit from that day in a bag intended for the dry cleaner. The bag sat in our hallway for weeks, and eventually made its way into the trash.

9/11, September 11, New York City, World Trade Center, plume of smoke, Boston Marathon

New York City on September 11, 2011. (Photo: Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress.)

I spent 9/11 in our apartment fielding phone calls from friends and family—especially theirs—who were unable to reach either of them. Other friends made their way to our apartment to wait, watch the news, and get updates from loved ones who worked downtown. It was like a vigil. We spent the day crying, pacing, and worrying, horrified by what we saw on television, horrified by the plume of smoke rising over the city we loved. We didn’t have to watch TV to see it. It was just outside our window.

Yesterday brought the terror of that day back, as my phone began ringing and buzzing with friends and family concerned that I was at the race.

I wasn’t. I was in Colorado for the wedding of a dear friend. My husband and I set our alarms early on Monday morning so we could watch the live stream of the professional races at the Boston Marathon from our hotel room. Shortly after the pros finished, we began our four-hour drive to the airport in Denver.

My husband had qualified for the 2013 Boston Marathon, but it was already sold-out when he ran his qualifying time in November at the Philadelphia Marathon.

But I had dozens of friends, teammates and even family at the race. Some were running, some where there to cheer, and some were there for work.

As soon as I heard about the attack via Twitter I took to my phone calling and texting all the people I knew that were there. Within two hours, I received word from them all that they were OK, despite the fact that a few of them were on scene when it happened or just a few minutes away.

But hundreds of other people were not so lucky. The attack left at least 154 people injured and 3 dead, and the toll continues to mount. I’m absolutely heartbroken for them, for their families, and for everyone who experienced yesterday. Truly, deeply heartsick. I feel as if my own family has been attacked. And it has. As runners and marathoners, we belong to a global community. If you attack one of us, you attack us all.

As for my husband, he’s planning to run the 2014 Boston Marathon. And I’m planning to be there to cheer him on.

It’s what we do. It’s what we must do. The human spirit and the spirit of the marathon—which I think of as one and the same—must live on, especially when hate and evil are trying to kill it.

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the Boston Marathon attack: the innocents who died, who were injured, who witnessed it all, and the family and friends of everyone who has been affected. My heart is with you. And I’m grateful to everyone who has stepped in to aid victims of the attack. You are truly heroes.

Karla Bruning is host of On The Run, New York Road Runners’ web show about running. She has finished six marathons, two triathlons and trains with the New York Harriers. Follow Karla at, The Washington Times Communities, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


04 2013

18 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. This is a great post. Yesterday, during the initial shock, I swore off all big races for the rest of my running life. Today, I am starting to once again feel the love and camaraderie of the running community and will hopefully change my mind about participating in and spectating certain races! Thanks again, this is a moving post!
    Ashley @ Running Bun recently posted..I Didn’t Run Last Week and a Change of PlansMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thanks, Ashley. I hope you do come around. We can’t be scared into submission. And these things could happen any time, any where–on your way to work, at a parade, on a subway, so many times and places. As a New Yorke, I’m keenly aware of that. I just don’t want to live my life scared all the time. But I’m glad you’re feeling the love of the running community. It really is an amazing group of people.
      Karla recently posted..Streets of the Boston Marathon, Streets of the WorldMy Profile

  2. 3

    Thank you Karla for your moving post. We in the running community and beyond are going to be struggling with this for some time to come and my heart goes out to everyone who was there. As I watched the news last night I felt so helpless, all I could do was write the following (though in no way could I come up with the words to truly express my horror and disbelief):

    A marathon, or any running race, is about the best in human beings. It is about perseverance, hope, defying odds, diversity, inner strength, physical strength, charity and celebration. Spend any time at any race, big or small, and you cant help but be overwhelmed by the atmosphere that I think is unique to the running world. How do we make sense of someone wanting to destroy something so symbolic of the human spirit?

    This tragedy has left me shaken. Four weeks ago I ran in my first large U.S race. My husband and my boys, with thousands of others, were at the finish line. As bad as it would have been to be a runner at the finish line today, what terrifies more is the thought of being a runner knowing that somewhere in those crowds was my family. The current reports are stating that an 8 year old child died today. My children are 10 and 7. I, like so many today, took my kids to my race to celebrate, to see everyday heroes in action. How do we explain to our children that there are people who arent able to see the beauty and value of life?

    There is always a sense of helplessness when these senseless acts of violence occur. For now, all we can do is offer our thoughts and prayers to those involved in todays tragedy.

    P.S It is now the day after this tragedy and so far my children know nothing of it. Whether rightly or wrongly, this is how I hope to keep it. I want them to continue going to race finish lines – mine or their own – with a sense of wonder and innocence. I am just not prepared for them to lose that yet.
    Kristi Raz recently posted..BostonMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Kristi, your words are really touching. I completely understand your hesitance to tell your kids. It’s difficult to comprehend as an adult, let alone as a child. Once innocence is lost, I’m not sure it can ever be recaptured, especially after an event like this.
      Karla recently posted..Streets of the Boston Marathon, Streets of the WorldMy Profile

  3. 5

    “Its what we do. Its what we must do.”

    We need to go on with our lives – to live as we intend to live, rather than live a life defined by the terror that those people wish to inflict upon us.
    Elle recently posted..Grateful for a Bad RunMy Profile

  4. 7

    Karla, your Washington Times column is beautiful. The paragraph about the spirit of the marathon could not explain my feelings any better. A marathon is a celebration of life, hard work and inspiration and you are exactly right, this is an attack on the human spirit.
    Danielle recently posted..Runners Are Strong.My Profile

  5. 9

    I have cried reading every post from people who ran Boston yesterday. What should have been hundreds of joyful, exciting posts about accomplishments has turned into such a tragedy. We should be discussing the great weather and Shalane’s finish and how wonderful our friends did, but instead we have this. It’s incredibly sad and overwhelming but I am inspired by the way the running community has pulled together in solidarity.
    Kristina @ Blog About Running recently posted..Ran an Easy 5 Miles Today (Did I Just Say That?)!My Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Kristina, you’re not alone. I’ve been in and out of tears as well. A few of my friends had close calls, and the thought of losing them, or anyone in that way is incomprehensible. You’re right, we should be talking about how well Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher and Jason Hartmann ran. But he have this instead. Awful.
      Karla recently posted..Streets of the Boston Marathon, Streets of the WorldMy Profile

  6. 11

    Great post, April 15th, 2013 will hold a place in my heart just as 9/11/01. And as we came back from 9/11 we will come back from this too.
    Laura recently posted..Letters on the RunMy Profile

  7. 13

    Very well said. I received an email last night. “I am so sorry for this attack on your country.” I emailed back and said that this attack feels like more than that too me. This was an attack on the international community at large. This was an attack on humanity.
    Ann Brennan recently posted..The Meaning Behind It AllMy Profile

  8. Katie #

    What a great post. As someone who ran away
    from the WTC and whose a runner, Monday
    hit home way to close. Every marathoner has
    a story and our supporters along the way are
    every part of that journey. The joys of the finish line-the smiles, engagements and
    happy tears will stay forever.

    • Karla Bruning

      Katie, I’m sorry you had to go through that. 9/11 was so hard as a New Yorker. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to be on the scene as well. Sending you a big virtual hug. And I couldn’t agree more about supporters. It’s like the saying, “Behind every great man, there’s a great woman.” Behind every marathoner is an army of supporters.
      Karla recently posted..Streets of the Boston Marathon, Streets of the WorldMy Profile

  9. 17

    There are so many things I am feeling right now and everyone else seems to be able to express the emotions for me. I had a similar 9/11 experience (my father worked in 4 WTC) and now as a runner (first time calling myself that really) this hit home again. Thank you for sharing your words. They, like others I read, express the sadness and the empathy, but at the same time give hope and love. I think it’s great that your husband is going to run Boston in 2014 and I think it’s great that you will be there watching and supporting him.
    Kellie recently posted..Not the Post I Wanted to WriteMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Kellie, I hope your father was OK! I think for so many of us, this brought all the horror, anger, sadness, et al from 9/11 back. But I’m glad you’re calling yourself a runner. I know it feels weird the first time you say or write it, but it’s true: YOU are a runner.
      Karla recently posted..Streets of the Boston Marathon, Streets of the WorldMy Profile


  1. Run, Karla, Run! » Blog Archive Race Report: UnitedHealthcare Providence Half » Run, Karla, Run! 15 05 13