The Boston Marathon has always been more than just a race in which men and women push their bodies to the brink of exhaustion – and sometimes beyond – for 26.2 miles. It’s an event. An icon of American sports. The pinnacle of the running world. You don’t sign up for the race, you qualify for the race.
At least eight Marshfield Clinic physicians and employees will join the 36,000 people participating Monday, April 21, in the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. Others will join the 1 million spectators along the course.
The tragedy at last year’s race and subsequent manhunt that left four people dead and dozens injured has driven unprecedented international attention to this race. This year’s event will be one where tears are shed; memories relived and created; and new friendships forged. Most important, the running community will show up in force in support of those who were injured or killed.
Richard Fossen, M.D., Internal Medicine, Minocqua Center, crossed the finish line at last year’s race about 15 minutes before the bombs detonated. He often reflects on what happened and anticipates his return will be emotional.
“I can visualize it. It will have meaning in so many ways – from remembering the day, the people who were hurt and the attempt to tarnish such an icon of sports,” Dr. Fossen said. “This year’s race will bring back the magic and specialness of the marathon. By having so many people in Boston, we will show the world that marathoners are not going to be intimidated.”
Dr. Fossen and fellow Minocqua Center physician Matt Thomas, M.D., Urology, shared their thoughts and observations after the bombing. Dr. Fossen, who is competing in his 11th Boston Marathon, and Dr. Thomas his fifth, vowed to return to Boston this year.
“It will be weird coming down Boylston Street and to see the finish line,” Dr. Thomas said. “It’s going to bring back a lot of memories. That’s going to be the hardest stretch.”
After that race, Drs. Thomas and Fossen leave Boston for California where six days later they’ll run in the Big Sur Marathon, two of about 400 runners taking part in the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge.
The Boston Marathon requires participants to qualify with different standards based on gender and age. Jessica Dalsbo, medical technologist at Wisconsin Rapids Center, qualified for the Boston Marathon after registration for the 2013 race closed. She set her sight on this year’s race.
A phone call from her husband alerted her to the bombings last year and she spent much of subsequent days watching in horror and shock. The mother of two children admitted being hesitant about competing this year, but a little persuasion will help her accomplish something on her bucket list.
“My husband is very supportive and he said ‘You can’t let people scare you from doing the things you love,’” Dalsbo said.
She will be accompanied in Boston by three friends, including two co-workers Kate Jackan and Ashley Weinzinger, who will cheer her on along the course.
Like Dalsbo, Ken Madden, M.D., Neurohospital Service, Marshfield Center, qualified for the race at the 2012 Chicago Marathon. A sports enthusiast, Dr. Madden has a deep appreciation for sports and historic venues.
“Anyone who runs a marathon thinks about running in Boston,” Dr. Madden said. “I can’t play baseball at Yankee Stadium or play football at Lambeau Field, but I can run the Boston Marathon.”
The tragedy during last year’s race was the reason why Radiation Oncologist Matthew McCurdy, M.D., Marshfield Center, added this year’s race to his schedule. His wife’s marathon training partner was at mile 25 when the bombing occurred and was not allowed to finish the race.
“That really hit home for us, knowing someone who was so close to the bombing,” Dr. McCurdy said. “Running this year is my way of helping show that these actions aren’t going to stop the running community.”
Dr. McCurdy, an accomplished marathoner and triathlete, initially planned to take a break from marathons, but was persuaded to run the Boston Marathon by his training partner, Justin Goetz, husband of Sarah Goetz, M.D., OB/GYN, Marshfield Center. A foot injury last week will prevent Justin Goetz from running. Instead, he and his wife will root for Dr. McCurdy.
Dr. Goetz has watched her husband run Boston three times previously, including last year. The Goetzs were back at the hotel when the bombs detonated.
“Certainly it’s going to be emotional,” Dr. Goetz said. “It’s going to be a different environment than the past and security will be very high. That being said, it will be a wonderful experience.”
Going back home
Like the two Minocqua physicians, physical therapists Justin and Corrine Deeg are veteran Boston Marathon runners. Corrine Deeg, Rice Lake Center, has run the past two years and Justin Deeg, Lakeview Medical Center, has competed eight times. The couple had completed the race and were more than a mile from the bombings.
“We were walking back to the hotel and people were asking us about what happened at the finish line,” Corrine Deeg recalled. “We got back and turned on the TV and saw what happened. I started bawling. It was the last thing you would ever expect. We were grateful that we were OK, but were worried about the other racers and spectators.”
They are headed back to Boston, but Corrine is six months pregnant and will be a spectator this year. For Justin Deeg, he will return to the area where he grew up and watch the marathon and communities celebrate Patriots’ Day. This year’s race won’t be about setting a personal best time, but soaking up the experience.
“People are ready to show their solidarity and show that it’s a stronger event than ever before,” he said. “My family still lives out there. There is nothing anyone in the state of Massachusetts and throughout New England will be doing other than watching and cheering for the marathon.”