John Hagin, 70, of Fort Collins, nearly finished his twelfth Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. A police barricade forced him to stop shortly after the 25-mile mark and wind his way another weary three miles to his hotel near the finish line.
His wife, Woody, by now a veteran spectator, departed from her usual plan to shop for a while and then wait for John at the finish. This year she’d beat the crowds and make sure she had a prime viewing spot by walking a half-mile or so along the edge of the course to find a vacant spot next to the railing that separates runners from spectators. “It was the first time in 11 years that I wasn’t at the finish line,” she says. Her decision may have saved her life.
One of the lucky few able to reach his hotel after the race was stopped, a keyless John talked a sobbing maid into opening his room. When he turned the TV on, he understood why. Grabbing his cell phone, he frantically called Woody, only to discover that he could not get through.
Thus began a seven-hour saga for the couple who were eventually reunited at their hotel after dark. By then John had showered and was resting on the bed. “Rotten guy,” was Woody’s first reaction. Exquisite relief was her second.
John ran the race, but it was Woody who experienced the full impact of the chaos caused by the explosion of two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon. She heard shattering booms, then saw police running toward the finish, ambulances, cops on bikes, swat teams and crowds of frightened people who’d been told to “evacuate” but weren’t sure where to turn. Rumors were rampant about the likelihood of more bombs. All the focus seemed to be on the safety of the runners.
When Woody tried to buy a charger for her dying cell phone, she discovered that a swat team member had purchased every charger in the store. For a very long time she walked the streets aimlessly wondering what to do. She hadn’t eaten all day. A lonely meal at the Cheesecake Factory seemed a far cry from the celebratory dinner she and John had planned. As daylight disappeared, she discovered a back way in to her hotel by sneaking through a small opening in yellow tape defining a crime scene.
John has been a runner since the early ‘70s when he weighed 200 pounds and a doctor told him to change his ways or die. He stopped counting marathons when he’d completed more than 100. He’s done every event possible in Leadville from the 100 mile trail run to the 10k. He’s run almost every day since he began except for three weeks off to heal a broken leg. These days he puts in 35 to 40 miles a week and insists he “doesn’t train. I just run.” He gave Woody an entry into the Hawaii marathon, her first, which she ran on her 50th birthday.
The Hagins have a room reserved in Boston for the 2014 marathon. They know it will be a huge crowd, and they don’t care. They have to be there.
PS John Hagin completed the 2014 Boston Marathon in 4:10.