By TEDDYE SNELL
When Tahlequah resident Lori Enlow set out to qualify for the Boston Marathon a year ago, she had no idea the twist her life would take.
Enlow was one of 86 Oklahomans taking part in one of the United States’ largest running competitions, which quickly turned garish and bloody following two explosions near the finish line Monday. The blasts left three dead and nearly 200 people wounded, but Enlow escaped unharmed.
“I’m guessing I crossed the finish line about 35 to 40 minutes before the explosions,” said Enlow. “I know my finish time was 3:23, three hours, 23 minutes. I saw the race clock through the smoke [on TV] and I think I remember it being 4:04 when the blasts happened.”
For Enlow, participating in the marathon was a “bucket list” goal.
“My goal a year ago was to just see if I could qualify,” she said. “The pace required is pretty stiff, so for an average Joe runner, it was a tough goal to meet. I qualified a year ago at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, which was my first marathon. I had no idea the significance this would hold until yesterday.”
The significance for Enlow is that Oklahoma City’s race memorializes those who lost their lives in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building bombing April 19, 1995. Now, the Boston Marathon will be forever linked to both tragedies in Enlow’s mind.
She and her husband, Todd, stopped at a restaurant on their way back to the hotel after Monday’s race.
“Shortly after we were inside and seated, an official voice came over the speakers, saying some criminal activity had occurred and we should remain inside the restaurant,” she said. “We were sitting close to the bar and could see the TV, and by then, news stories were breaking about the explosions, so we knew what was going on.”
Enlow said what had been a perfect day quickly changed course.
“My heart just sank,” she said. “I was thinking about all of the victims, how many there were and how many more there might be. I was also thinking about the thousands of runners still out there whose families had no idea if they were OK and no way to find out.”
Despite the chaos along the race circuit, Enlow said the situation in the restaurant was reserved.
“Things were very organized, quiet and calm,” she said. “I guess they were as orderly as they could be, given the situation. Outside, it was much, much different. There were police cars, fire trucks and ambulances zipping everywhere, and people would stop in the restaurant with bits of information.”
The couple remained in the restaurant for several hours.
“While the restaurant people would have liked for us to stay, the news stations were advising runners to try to return to their hotels,” said Enlow. “Since all transit had stopped - no subways, taxis or buses were running - we knew we would have to start walking back to the hotel soon, since it was about 4 miles from the restaurant, or we’d have to make that walk in the dark. That’s when we decided to leave.”
Enlow said the scene outside the restaurant was chilling.
“When we stepped outside, people were everywhere,” she said. “Those who had driven in to run the marathon were trying to figure out how to leave, as many of them had parked in garages downtown – and those garages, of course, were closed up tight.”
Enlow, a nurse practitioner, said her first instinct was to try and help.
“But we were a couple of blocks away [from the blast sites] and were asked to stay put,” she said. “I knew there were plenty of medical personnel on scene and that me trying to get involved would only be a distraction.”
That knowledge did not assuage Enlow’s concerns for the caregivers on site, though.
“I thought a lot about the victims and for those tending to them, and the trauma they will have in their hearts,” she said. “When you are helping someone, you feel their suffering; you endure with them. You bear some of their wounds in your heart.”
Enlow said the walk back to the hotel was eerie.
“Streets that should have been packed with people celebrating were empty, save the official vehicles whisking here and there quietly,” she said. “When we left for the airport [Tuesday morning], things were very quiet and still. We had no trouble getting to the airport, and made it through security quickly. It was all very quiet.”
What began as a one-time goal has now become a personal commitment for Enlow.
“The Boston Marathon was initially my ‘Bucket List’ race,” she said. “I told myself if I qualified, I would come to Boston, run the marathon once and be satisfied. That is not the case now. I will be back next year. All things considered – how I qualified and what happened here Monday – I will be back, and it will be a better day.”