Saturday, April 20, 5:55 a.m. I pull into the parking lot for our weekly distance run.
Lot empty, but one car — Jake's hybrid. I bet he couldn't sleep. I reach for my water belt, exit my car. There's Jake. I deliver the first of many long grateful-you-are-here hugs.
Jake ran Boston. He's returned to work and to his busy life, but everything must be overshadowed by what happened.
Cars angle in. Runners make straight for Jake, encircling him. He's wearing a powder blue, long-sleeved technical shirt with a Boston logo. Before today, he didn't wear his Boston Marathon shirt.
"I traveled incognito," Jake says, He didn't want to answer, "Were you there?"
Now, surrounded by running friends, he begins, "I was at mile 25.9, about five minutes off pace, half a mile from the finish when I banged into runners, stopped still.
"I'd heard nothing. They'd heard two explosions.
"Figured a transformer blew at a Metro station. Expected to be diverted to an alternate finish."
Jake pulls his ball cap down further. He's usually a listener, offering a few salient comments. This morning, the center of attention, he hides under his cap, but continues, "At Commonwealth and Mass. Ave., just after the bridge, we waited, nobody thinking, 'Bomb,' but we were miserable, 45 minutes freezing under wet clothes. Finally a bullhorn announced 'bomb blasts.' I texted my wife, Lea, "You OK?" Nothing back.
"Police said, 'Walk to the finish, or to Boston Commons.'
"I went right for the finish to find Lea, but met a 12-block wooden barrier.
"'Not safe here,' police called, 'Go to the Commons.'
"Buses took us to the Boston Commons. Stiff by now, we exited the bus and met more police. 'Go to the west side of the park,' they ordered. We hobbled over. 'Go to the east side of the park,' other cops yelled. We struggled back. When a policeman directed us back where we'd just been, I lost it, and told him, no, in language he understood.
"A young girl slung her coat around my shoulders. Somebody gave me a garbage bag for warmth. I returned the coat. A guy offered his coat. I said no. A runner gave me a space blanket.
"We could see buses with our after-race warm-ups, but police wouldn't let us near gear storage.
"Then Lea called! Relieved, we made a plan — separate cabs, meet at the hotel.
"But, no cabs, busses, no Metro, so Lea walked to the Commons."
Jake doesn't say how they hugged, or if they cried, but he wouldn't cry and wouldn't include drama in his story.
Later they realized if Jake had been on pace, he would have run right into the blast. Minutes before the bomb detonated, Lea walked from the finish to the family reunification area.
"We wished everybody'd been so lucky.
"We started the 5-mile-walk to our hotel — which way? People poured out of brownstones, offering bathrooms, water, directions. A guy went out of his way to walk us to the hotel."
At the hotel, Jake and Lea never left their rooms. Listening to Jake, it's obvious — the celebratory hot shower/dinner, a marthoner's reward, were not part of Boston 2013. People were suffering. A child would never see another day. Hospitals were the new residence for many, grief the new outlook for families.
Jake finishes his story, "In Boston, I saw great evil answered by great human decency. Right now, I want to think back on the goodness."
However, for all runners, a strange reality lurks behind the intense focus of future races, the potential for mayhem.
We bunch together, set our pace-watches, and run down Eastbluff Drive, Jake, in the lead.