Boston Marathon offers new start for Evanston runners shocked by last year’s bombings

Cat Zakrzewski, Reporter

As he walked around Boston on Sunday afternoon, Evanston resident John Kayser said there was a special “vibrancy” in the air the day before the first Boston Marathon since deadly bombs went off at the race last year.

“The energy is just electric,” said the 42-year-old, who will be running Monday for the sixth time. “It’s going to be a special, special day.”

Kayser is one of nine Evanston runners signed up to run the Boston Marathon again after registering last year. Although memories of last year’s race are not far from the runners’ minds, Kayser said Monday will be a new start, especially for the many runners who were unable to finish last year.

On April 13, 2013, two pressure-cooker bombs detonated near the race’s finish line, killing three and injuring 260 more that day. Nineteen Evanston runners were registered for the 2013 race, including one NU student who left the scene before the bombs detonated. 

In the days following the race, runners expressed shock. Nancy Rollins, a member of the Evanston Running Club, said the day was “wonderful” until the bombs went off. The 66-year-old placed second in her age group.

“The contrast of those two things is heartbreaking,” Rollins told The Daily in April of last year. “We’re still absorbing it.”

Kayser recalled a similar shock during last year’s race. The first bomb went off about 40 minutes after he finished his run, and he learned the news while watching TV in his hotel.

Last year, runners said they wouldn’t let the bombings stop them from running in the future. This year, a total of 20 runners registered from Evanston this year.

“There’s this feeling of rededication to the race from a runner’s standpoint,” Kayser said. “There were a lot of runners who didn’t get the chance to finish last year. Now they’re back to complete what they started.”

Kayser said the Boston Marathon is always one of the most challenging courses, but also one of the most rewarding to run. The race, in its 118th year, is the oldest annual marathon in the world.

“It’s not just for the nostalgia or the history,” he said. “It’s a race you want to compete well in.”

Kayser said his favorite moment comes in the final mile, when he can see the finish line and the hundreds of thousands of spectators on each side of the street.

“Not only are you excited because it’s the finish line and there’s an adrenaline rush with that,” Kayser said. “But you also have this charge from the spectators as well.”

Kayser said in the wake of last year’s tragedy, this year’s race will have even more energy. He said he cannot wait to hear the cheers of the spectators echoing off the sides of the buildings in downtown Boston.

“There’s no race more magical than that last mile of a marathon in Boston,” Kayser said.

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Twitter: @Cat_Zakrzewski

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