Jennifer Schubert-Akin raises money during her Boston Marathon training for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. You can contribute to the cause via her page at http://main.natio...
Steamboat Springs There wasn’t a second of doubt.
Not when Steamboat Springs' Jennifer Schubert-Akin crossed the finish line, exhausted as always, but happy, as always.
Not as she filed through the post-race routine for the 19th time in her running career.
And not moments later, when a pair of bombs ripped through the finish line area of the Boston Marathon, killing three, injuring more than 250, paralyzing a city and terrifying a nation.
Schubert-Akin flew to Boston late last week for her 20th Boston Marathon, and bright and early Monday morning, she’s as eager as ever to run in it.
“From the moment we left last year, there was no doubt we were coming back,” Schubert-Akin said. “There was no doubt whatsoever. We aren’t going to live our lives in fear.”
There’s no denying the fear that erupted a year ago will largely define this year’s race, much as how it’s been a factor every day since for those who were there.
The anniversary of that race and the first Boston Marathon since the bombing have been major stories in the news cycle in recent weeks, but it doesn’t take a story on TV for Schubert-Akin to remember.
She crossed the finish line two minutes before the first explosion, fighting a cramp in her calf through the final miles to slip under the four-hour mark. She finished in 3 hours, 58 minutes.
“It was a perfect day, and I had a great race,” she said Friday. “Then everything just went to hell.
“I’ll never forget that as long as I live.”
The first of two explosions drew her attention back to the finish line as her husband, Rick Akin, was making his way toward the finish line, after attempting to cheer on his wife in the race’s final stretch.
They soon connected by telephone, confirming both were safe, and before long, they were able to reach out to friends and assure their well-being.
They traveled back to Steamboat Springs in the ensuing days, but the attack’s aftermath didn’t settle soon. They were swarmed by media eager for comments, and the couple appeared on Fox News to tell their story.
“It was really weird, having the national media want to interview you after a race,” Schubert-Akin said.
They went back to their lives, but nothing has been the same since, especially not running.
Schubert-Akin first ran in the Boston Marathon in 1995 and was immediately smitten, not only with the race but with the festivities that surrounded it on Patriot’s Day, from the throngs of cheering fans who gathered along the 26.2-mile route to the Red Sox playing at Fenway Park.
“Boston’s a great city, and Patriot’s Day weekend is a lot of fun,” she said.
So, when she qualified for the next year’s race, it was an easy decision to attend in 1996 and in 1997 and in 1998 and all the way until 2013, her 19th race.
Along the way, she began running for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, raising in her 20 years more than $70,000 to help battle the disease that her sister, Yvonne Miller, was diagnosed with and fights on a daily basis.
That helped inspire Schubert-Akin as she trained through the snowy winters in Steamboat to be ready when spring came and it was time to take that trip to Boston.
Things were different this winter, however.
“In the course of the last year, there hasn’t been a day go by I didn’t think about it,” she said, considering the bombing and its lasting impact on her.
“Now that I think about it, I used it to motivate me,” she said. “It was really easy to get motivated to do the longer, harder workout this winter. I think I know why.”
There’s a lot she’s looking forward to in Monday’s race. The crowds, always a highlight, are expected to break records, perhaps topping 1,000,000 spectators. She said she’s as prepared as she’s ever been and is chomping at the bit to get started Monday morning. And, she’s ready to run down Boylston Street, the site of the bombings and the finish line.
“For myself and for a lot of people, Monday will be a really emotional roller coaster,” she said. “When you make that final turn and come down the last 600 meters, you won’t be able to help but smile, no matter how bad you’re hurting, when you see the finish line banner and the big finish line arch in the distance. You won’t be able to help but be thrilled, but at the same time, you won’t be able to help but think about what happened last year.
“There will definitely be a real mix of emotions, but what you’ll see on Monday is the human spirit overcoming adversity.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9