By Stan Friedman
BOSTON, MA (April 28, 2014) — Dave Cairns stopped two-tenths of a mile short of the Boston Marathon’s finish line last Monday so that he could reflect for a moment.
He had waited a year to get to that place.
It was where he had been on Boylston Street when two pressure cooker bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring more than 260. He had seen the blasts and been caught up in the chaos on the cold, rainy, miserable day.
This time it was his choice to stop, to take in the sunshine, to look around and to hear the people cheering. And then to run again until he crossed the finish line.
Cairns, the executive director of Pilgrim Pines Conference Center, hadn’t doubted whether his body would hold up through the race last week. It was his emotions he was unsure about.
He decided to approach the race differently this year. Cairns had gone to college on a track scholarship and has competed in races ever since, so he was determined to challenge himself in 2013 and push for a strong time.
However, this year he says, “I had removed all the competition goals. It was just about finishing.” That’s why he could even stop at times to have his picture taken with friends and family. It’s why he was able to laugh and joke that he had run 52 miles between the two races to complete one marathon.
Having his family see him at the finish line was a “special blessing,” he says. In 2013, he searched the streets for an hour and a half looking for his family. They were supposed to have been standing near where the bombs went off but had decided instead to wait for him several blocks away.
“I was inconsolable,” he has said in recalling the experience. “I had run 26 miles. I just had shorts and a shirt, no ID. I was so physically and emotionally drained. I was sobbing. I could hardly talk because I was shivering so hard from the cold.”
This year they saw him finish, and when he found them, “It was just a huge embrace.”
Kyle Small, associate dean and associate professor of church leadership at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, added he was inspired by the courage shown by the residents of Boston and also the runners who returned.
“Many runners were facing an emotional uphill as they trace their footsteps of last year,” he posted on his Facebook page, “They are inspiring. Grateful to witness their strength.”
Boaz Johnson, professor of biblical and theological studies at North Park University, had run a previous Boston Marathon but did not run last year’s race. He decided to run this year as a way of redeeming the tragedy by also using the occasion to raise money for orphanages in the Caucuses, where the bombers had grown up.
“Emotionally, it was a very intense experience,” says Johnson. “I remember looking at the crowd and seeing the emotion in their eyes, that this was no ordinary run, that this would be cathartic.”
Intensifying the experience was seeing the people who ran with shirts that bore the names of the dead and injured victims of the bombing. It also, was for him, a statement of hope.