Millette, Amale react on the Boston Marathon

“I was shocked to hear about the explosion and couldn’t help but immediately recapture the Finish line scene… where (my children) Justin, Yuan and Savvi waited for me,” said Millette Chiongbian, who ran the Boston Marathon two years ago.

“It is unbelievably unthinkable of how this could happen in the most respectable, prestigious and legendary marathon,” Millette added. “This is a traumatizing event for those who were there because that day was supposed to be exciting, happy and worthy of celebrating but then turned out to be catastrophic and heart-breaking. The Boston Marathon will always be ‘The Boston’ but it will never be the same.”

Why is the Boston Marathon so celebrated? First, it is the world’s oldest annual marathon. It started in 1897 (the year after the first modern-day Olympics) and is always held on the 3rd Monday of April. Also, it is the most hallowed of 42K races because you need to be very fast to qualify.

One very fast Cebuana who recently qualified was Amale Mendezona Jopson. A former national-team triathlete (and the wife of Noy Jopson), Amale ran the Dong-A Seoul International Marathon last March 17. In her age category, she needed to run the 42K in 3 hours and 45 minutes or faster to qualify. She did, finishing 3:42:35 in Seoul.

Amale qualified for Boston! But, thank God, Amale was not there two days ago, running alongside 26,000 other runners in Boston — she’ll join the 2014 race.

“I was getting ready for work after a speed session at the Ateneo track when Noy called me from the airport to tell me about the news,” Amale said.” I was utterly shocked and devastated. Why would anyone do this? Were there casualties? What about the Pinoy runners – were they alright?”

Amale emailed me a list of friends who joined. She wrote: “Good friend and fellow triathlete Arland Macasieb, Multiple Ironman finisher Efraim Manzano from Hawaii, Hawaii Ironman Finisher Amanda Carpo and her sister Leica, brothers Arnie and Anton Aguila; Irish national Aileen Breen who lives in Manila. Anton had an amazing finish at 2:51, and Amanda recorded a great time of 3:28.”

Of those friends, Amale was most concerned with Efraim Manzao, who finished in 4:02 (nett time)/4:05 (gun time). “Truly,” Amale said, “angels watched over him since the bomb exploded at 4:09.”

The Boston bombing was more than shocking. It was America’s worst terrorist act since 9/11. And it didn’t just happen at an ordinary event or day — the twin bombs exploded during the world’s most famous footrace during Patriot’s Day.

“To cause terror on a purist event like the Boston Marathon was unthinkable,” Amale said. “The marathon is a race where the human spirit is celebrated and honored, where people – runners and spectators alike – lift each other up in every way possible. It’s an event where you see runners from all walks of life, and where you get inspired from truly amazing feats like visually-challenged runners finishing at an insane fast time of 2:12, and runners with other disabilities raising funds for all sorts of charities. It so saddening that such evil exists in this world to mar the marathon with such horror. Of all marathons to choose, they picked the most prestigious one of all. And to detonate the bomb at 4:09:44, close to the median Boston finish time, the intention was to do as much damage as possible.”

Distraught but filled with conviction to still — despite the fears — join the 2014 Boston Marathon, Mrs. Jopson added: “Well, I’ll tell you what Mr. Terrorist, we are saddened by what you did at Boston, and we pray for everyone you hurt. But as runners have time and again shown, even in the very act of training for and running the marathon, there’s no stopping us! We will continue to run marathons and support the community, and reach out to the world with all the purity, goodness and nobility of the sport. Despite all the pain, you didn’t weaken us today – you made us stronger. The human spirit will prevail!”

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