Editor’s note: The 2014 Boston Marathon will be run April 21. With the race one month away, Covenant News Service is publishing stories of Covenanters whose reasons for running are connected to the deadly bombing of last April 15. Today’s stories focus on Julie Miller of Alexandria, Minnesota, who had finished the race and was just a couple blocks away when the blasts occurred. Dave Cairns, executive director of Pilgrim Pines Conference Center, was only two-tenths of a mile from reaching the finish line.
By Stan Friedman
ALEXANDRIA, MINNESOTA (March 21, 2014)—Julie Miller did not plan to run the Boston Marathon this year. Then the group of friends she ran with last year decided to return.
“Surprisingly I am doing this again,” says Miller. “I didn’t think I’d want to.”
Miller, who attends Catalyst Covenant Church, and her friends say, “We don’t want to be ruled by fear.” A common theme for them is “evil being overcome by good.”
Miller had completed the 2013 race and was two blocks from the finish line when the two bombs exploded.
She had finished the race some 15 minutes before the explosion and then realized she had forgotten to get her finisher’s medal and returned to the location where they were distributing them to the runners.
“There are a lot of things about that day that will always be a fog for me,” she says. “I feel like I haven’t put this together.”
Miller also is not sure how she will respond emotionally when she returns. Running with friends who share her faith will help, she says, and they plan to attend Easter services the Sunday before the race, which is held on a Monday.
Miller thought her family would not want her to return. Instead, her two daughters, ages seven and eight, encouraged her to go. Her husband also has been supportive.
“I thought if they were OK with me going, then I would try,” she says.
Since the Boston race, Miller has run a marathon in South Dakota and several other half marathons. With each race, her anxiety has lessened.
She says she doesn’t think a lot about last year’s event. “I hope for myself that it’s not just out of callousness, but at the same time to just keep replaying it in your mind is not benefiting anybody.”
But just as she said in the days after the race, Miller has continued to wrestle with difficult questions. “Prior to this, I could have just said God protected me,” Miller said at the time. “But this situation has made me start to question why did God protect me and not the others? I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to resolve that on this side of heaven.”
Miller says that when she thinks about the bombers, especially the survivor, “I actually have compassion for him because of how far from the Lord he is. And just as Jesus said, Father forgive them. They know not what they do.”
She adds, “It is just more than I can fathom how a person can be—whether it’s sane or insane—how they can actually carry something like that out.”
She adds that compassion might be easier for her because she never saw the carnage or had loved ones who were affected by the tragedy.
The race itself is inspiring, Miller says. Many participants are running to raise money for charities or to overcome odds.
“There was a blind man who actually passed me,” she says. The man was connected by a bungee cord to a sighted runner. She recalls seeing a father pushing a son with cerebral palsy in a stroller.
“To see all these people who had overcome major obstacles, you wonder how they could consider walking, let alone running a marathon,” she says.
Click here to read previous stories about Boaz Johnson, professor of biblical and theological studies at North Park University, and Kyle Small, associate dean and associate professor of church leadership at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan.