Gorman: Boston runners compete in Pittsburgh Marathon to prove terrorism can't win
There was something personal for Conrad Quesen about the timing of the first explosion at the Boston Marathon.
When a homemade bomb exploded at the 4:09.43 mark of the race, it held added significance for Quesen. That's about when he has crossed the finish line in six previous marathons.
“When it happened, I thought, ‘That's my time,'” said Quesen, 41, of Squirrel Hill. “I thought about it earlier then said, ‘Screw that!' I'm not going to let it enter my mind.”
Quesen ran the Pittsburgh Marathon on Sunday wearing a black tank top with a unicorn with a teardrop — a nod to the Boston Athletic Association logo — on the front and #runforboston on the back.
Thirty thousand people ran for Boston and beyond at the Pittsburgh Marathon. They ran to honor the three victims who were murdered and hundreds more maimed by two explosions last month. They ran to qualify for the 118th Boston Marathon next year. They ran to prove that they could, and to prove a terroristic act can't stop them.
“Marathons these days are more for the average people,” Quesen said. “All you need to be a runner is a pair of shoes. To me, the marathon is about unity. They weren't targeting anybody in particular. They were targeting everybody.”
No one dared duplicate the cowardice of the two brothers who left bombs on Boston's Boylston Street. Not with the increased presence of police and military in Pittsburgh.
That didn't stop the runners who finished in 4:09.43 and shortly after from reflecting on how it could have happened to them if the Boston bombers had instead picked Pittsburgh.
Still, Michelle Adams was surprised when spectators were kept away from the starting line, a strange feeling for the runners.
“There were tears during the moment of silence and national anthem,” said Adams, 39, of Gainesville, Fla. “I tried not to cry as I was running, seeing all the ‘Pittsburgh loves Boston' and ‘Boston is in our hearts' signs.”
Adams wore her Boston Marathon bib on the back of her shirt. She finished that race less than 30 minutes before the explosions.
“We can't live in fear,” Adams said. “That's what they want us to do.”
Nothing was going to stop Patricia Murdock from cheering on her daughter, Nicole, about 100 yards from the finish line on the Boulevard of the Allies. About the same spot where backpacks with bombs were left on Boylston.
“I thought of it as soon as we stood there,” said Patricia Murdock of Punxsutawney. “It was in my head all day. I prayed, ‘Please God, let everything be good today.' ”
It was, especially after Mary Lou Stockdale ran onto the course to encourage her struggling niece. Stockdale's son, Franklin, ran barefoot alongside Nicole for about a half-mile.
As she neared Stanwix Street, a re-energized Nicole smiled and waved to those holding handmade signs. She called seeing them at the end of the race “the best pick-me-up.”
“It was pretty scary to think anything could ever happen,” said Nicole, 28. “I'm proud of them for being there.”
Almost as proud as they were of her and the other runners, for putting 26.2 miles and any fears from Boston behind them.