Wednesday April 17, 2013

BOSTON -- Less than 24 hours after two bombs exploded, taking three lives and causing incredible injuries, some runners came back to the Boston Marathon site.

The runners walked up to a barricade Tuesday, wearing their blue and yellow jerseys, and handed volunteers the running numbers they wore Monday. First, a volunteer would hand the marathoner a yellow bag full of personal belongings that had been trapped inside the crime scene.

Then, the runners were asked if they had the chance to finish the race. If they didn't finish - and therefore didn't get the medal given to all who cross the finish line - they were given medals by volunteers.

Walking to the barricades, some runners held hands with friends. Others were stoic. Some became visibly upset when the medal went around their neck, which was often followed by a hug from a stranger.

The medals held a lot of different meanings for those who got them at the intersection of Berkley Street and St. James Avenue.

"You take that medal to heart. You walk down these streets, and they're supposed to be moments of happiness, and you're just overwhelmed with emotions," said Lisa Wyman of Boston. "You try to walk down Hereford Street, that's the street you're supposed to turn right on to get this medal, and you can't even turn down the street."

Wyman was accompanied by Nancy Wyman and Nick Giordano, who all ran for the American Liver Foundation. For the Wymans' the explosion happened in their neighborhood.

"We never got to finish and that was important for us," Nancy Wyman said. "But now we're all sad and it's just your heart is broken. Our heart is broken."

On Monday 23,000 runners started in the race though only about 17,580 finished, according to the New York Times.

Lisa Wyman's 7-week-old son was born in Boston, and she choked up when talking about how her son won't have the same experience of the marathon that she's had.

"This is a positive day in the city and he'll never get to experience that like I have my whole life. You take away the finish of the marathon but you also take away a very special day in the city of Boston."

Giordano said he thinks they're all still in shock.

"I've done this 11 times and it shouldn't end this way. That medal should be happiness [now] it's just a reminder. For us it's coming to the terms [with it] part of me never wants this to be my last marathon just because someone else determined it that way."

Among those giving out medals and bags was Matthew Carpenter, on the board of the organizing committee for the marathon. He said some were happy to receive the medals, others sad.

He didn't think it was fair.

"They're cheated out of a great moment," Carpenter said.

He stopped to shake a man's hand who received his medal from another worker.

"I hope you come back next year," he said.

The man said he would.

"When you finish the race, usually you come across the finish line a volunteer gives you a happy smile and the medal, they're not getting that. It's different now," he said.

Leyah Valgardson and her sister, Chalyce, were among those who walked up to get their medals and bag without visible emotion. But when the medal was placed around Leyah's neck, her lip began to tremble. She started to cry, and was embraced by a total stranger.

Leyah Valgardson of Pittsburgh said this shows they can come back from anything.

"This isn't going to stop us, it'll just make us a little stronger," she said. "We definitely have a sense of unity. We all went through this together."

They didn't get to finish the race, but they'll be back next year, she said.