"The tragedy will be the backdrop for this race, but it will not be the story. Boston is the greatest marathon in the world. People run for lots of reasons. If I could put the character of this race into one word, it would be 'undeterred.' Folly and tragedy will not stop us from doing life well."
Suzy and Sonny Lowe of Williamsburg also ran last year.
"This was a big race for my wife and me," Sonny said. "It took us several years to qualify for Boston, so you can imagine our expectations. It started off perfect, then things got ugly. We were still running when we found out what had happened. Needless to say, our emotions ran wild."
Sonny said they reached Mile 25.5 when they were stopped by law enforcement and told, "The race is canceled. Go home," he recalled. "We felt helpless. We ran the gamut of emotions from selfish disappointment to overwhelming grief for everyone affected, both physically and emotionally."
The couple will try again, thanks to help from race organizers.
Sonny qualified, but an injury prevented Suzy from making the required time. Sonny petitioned the Boston Athletic Association, the company that has organized the event since 1897, to allow a runner who was unable to finish due to the cancellation to compete again. "I did what I could to convince them to let us finish."
The BAA ultimately added 5,000 runners who ran last year to this year's field.
"I believe they had always had this in mind, and they did it in a way that no other qualifiers were affected," Sonny said. "I couldn't in good conscience have taken the place of another runner who qualified. I know firsthand the struggles involved in qualifying for Boston."
Suzy plans to make the most of the opportunity. "This year's event will be a very emotional celebration," she said. "36,000 runners from all over the world will congregate and make the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston. We will be celebrating our sport and remembering the lives lost and persons injured. This year's race will demonstrate that runners are a resilient group who will not be scared away from doing what we love."
Greg Dawson, a Navy submarine officer who lives in town, said this event hits home for him.
"Boston stands out as the ultimate event," he said. "We will reaffirm to ourselves and the world that we are not afraid and will not be deterred."
He's only competed in the event once, in 2008.
"It was amazing," he said. "I had planned to return upon turning 50 (in 2016), but after the bombings of the 2013 Boston Marathon, I immediately decided that I would run in 2014 to show solidarity with the victims and with the people of Boston."
"Part of me does not want to go back and face it again," Dranoff said. "However, I want to take it back for all of Boston and those victims, and I want the finish line that was taken from me."
She plans to honor the victims in her own way, kneeling at both bomb sites before crossing the finish line. And to celebrate, she'll meet that stranger at the restaurant for a post-race beer.
Harvey can be reached by phone at 757-345-2352.