For Rock Hill’s Scott Kennedy, a distance runner all his life, Monday’s Boston Marathon is not just a race. It is the biggie. The Holy Grail. He calls it “My Olympics.”
And one year after the bombings at last year’s finish line that killed three people and injured nearly 300, the Boston Marathon will mean even more.
“This, for a lot of people – including me – was one where I just felt I needed to go and race,” said Kennedy, 38, who ran as a Winthrop University student. A lot of runners have been saying what a caption published with one online photo proclaimed: “You don’t mess with our finish line!”
After last year’s bombings, the Boston Marathon changed from America’s premier road race to a symbol of the country’s refusal to be bowed by violent acts. The race now is symbolic of American grit, toughness, and togetherness.
This year’s race features more than 30,000 entrants, including 10 from York County. Runners have to qualify for Boston, and many such as Kennedy trained to qualify in order to show solidarity with the world’s runners.
“Runners are people who get up at 5 in the morning to train, who run in the cold and the rain and the snow,” Kennedy said. “This year just means so much to runners. It means so much to the country.”
Kennedy said he is not worried about safety.
“This year the Boston Marathon might be the safest place in America at the time of the race,” he said. “And when I cross that finish line, I will sure say I helped take that finish line back.”
Runners are different. Runners punish their bodies in order to nourish their souls. Runners fight shin splints and aching knees and blistered feet but keep going. That spirit of not giving up is exactly why so many thousands of people will run in Boston Monday.
Of York County’s 10 entrants, just two were in the race last year.
Fort Mill’s Rob Ducsay, 48, a board member with the Charlotte Running Club that includes many York County racers, wanted to go last year for his first Boston Marathon but couldn’t. This year, nothing would stop him.
“When I finish, I am sure it will be emotional, like it will be for all the runners after what happened last year,” Ducsay said. “The race is bigger than ever now. People know about it because of what happened.”
Fort Mill’s Jamie Dodge, 40, and Tega Cay’s Amanda Morris, 29, will return to marathon where last year the bombs went off.
Dodge said she struggled with the decision to race in Boston again.
“I was shell-shocked after last year for a really long time,” Dodge said. “I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to think about it.”
To qualify last year, Dodge battled through a serious thyroid illness that hampered her for months. But she trained, and qualified, and ran. And then the bombs went off.
“It is just different if you were there and part of all that,” Dodge said.
But weeks ago, Dodge had one of those moments that runners have. This is the lady known in Fort Mill’s Baxter Village area as “that lady who runs.” People stop her when she is out for ice cream with her husband and two kids. They point. They know. So she had a moment where she decided that she had to qualify again. She had to go back and race in Boston.
“I told myself right then if I ever go back to Boston, then this year would have to be the one after what happened last year,” Dodge said.
So partly for her health recovery, and partly for her country, and partly for herself, Jamie Dodge qualified for one more Boston Marathon.
“I am going for healing,” Dodge said.
The healing is for herself, and every other runner who will not be bowed by cowardice and violence.