Life has hardly been normal for Vicki Schmidt since just 400 meters separated her from the finish line at the Boston Marathon 10 days ago.
The Nashville native returned to work on Thursday. She is still sniffling thanks to a cold she probably picked up while scrambling through downtown Boston on a chilly Patriots’ Day after two bombs exploded, killing three and injuring more than 260.
Of course, she is grateful she wasn’t hurt and doctors say full hearing in her boyfriend’s ears should return in four to six weeks. Phil Kirkpatrick suffered a perforated eardrum as he stood just feet away from the first blast, waiting to snap a picture of Schmidt crossing the finish line.
A senseless act might have shaken up Schmidt’s world but it won’t keep her from lacing up her running shoes on Saturday for the St. Jude Country Music Marathon. As long as her cold doesn’t worsen, Schmidt, a devoted member of the Nashville Striders Running Club, will serve as 2:15 pacesetter for the half-marathon.
“I think there is more good than evil in the world and I can’t let this stop me as a runner,” Schmidt said. “I can’t be fearful. I think it was a very rare experience. I think it would do me good actually.”
Schmidt is one of 11 runners from the Nashville area who ran in Boston and will be on the course Saturday. Five of those runners weren’t able to finish the Boston Marathon — Schmidt, Diane Bolton, Amber Larason, Camiron Pfennig and Edward Sherwood.
Security will be heightened with an additional 150 private security officials and Boston will be on the minds of the more than 30,000 anticipated runners. A moment of silence will be observed, and Run Now Boston wristbands with the date of April 15, 2013, will be distributed.
“You can’t help but think about it,” Schmidt said. “You can’t help think about it every time you walk out your front door anymore. But I can’t dwell on it. I don’t think I’ll have any traumatic flashbacks or anything like that.”
For Bolton, the goal on Saturday is simple.
“Pass mile 25 and get to the finish line,” she said.
The South Nashville resident will be running in her 198th marathon — all since 2007. She has finished 196. The only one she didn’t complete was her fourth Boston Marathon last Monday. She was less than a mile from the finish line when she started to see runners come toward her. A spectator then rushed out of a nearby building yelling that there had been an explosion.
Bolton immediately thought about her husband. Tom Bolton happened to be across the street from the explosions. When the second bomb went off he thought a transformer blew as the ground shook and white smoke emerged. Diane, one of very few runners to have her phone on her, eventually was able to get a phone signal and the two reunited near Fenway Park.
Since then, the 51-year-old has run in two marathons — in Olathe, Kan., and Marion, Iowa. And mile 25 had the same effect each time.
“They were emotional every time,” Diane said. “Mile 25 seemed to take forever to get to that finish line both times. [In Kansas] because I did have my Boston Marathon shirt on, the roars of everybody encouraging and cheering was phenomenal. [In Iowa] the wind was so strong, there was nobody in sight. I picked up some guy along the way and having him finish that with me it felt like an eternity. That was one long stretch.”
When Schmidt, 51, ran in the Chicago Marathon last year she qualified for her first Boston Marathon. By qualifying, she could either run in the 2013 or 2014 marathon. She had planned on waiting until next year but there were still some openings in this year’s 27,000-plus runner field so she jumped at the chance.
Now she says she is part of a historic Boston Marathon.
When the explosions went off she was about to turn the corner for the final stretch. Then she heard the first explosion “but I thought it was fireworks because they had a Red Sox game going on.” But she couldn’t see the explosions as skyscrapers blocked her view. Quickly law officers placed barricades on the street, halting the race.
“You could see the finish line and you could see all the powder, and I knew my boyfriend was at the finish line to take my picture,” Schmidt said.
As she saw people placed onto stretchers, Schmidt kept trying to reach Kirkpatrick. She was unaware that his phone had been knocked out of his hand during the blast (and was later confiscated by the FBI). But he was OK. In fact, Schmidt soon received a text message from her sister with a picture of Kirkpatrick on national TV. He was wearing his gray University of Tennessee shirt while being moved from the scene in a wheelchair.
She met up with him a couple hours later and later went to the hospital, where doctors told him he had temporary loss in both ears. The couple was able to get out of Boston the next day, but not before Kirkpatrick was interviewed by Katie Couric.
It was not the ending Schmidt had been expecting for her 10th marathon. In fact, it was only the second time she hadn’t finished the 26.2-mile race. She was pulled off the course around the 22- or 24-mile mark three years ago when severe storms swept through Nashville.
But Schmidt isn’t about to let this abrupt halt take away from what was supposed to be a grand memory.
“I might not have run across the finish line but I ran Boston,” Schmidt said. “That is every runner’s dream. It is a magical experience and I ran Boston.”