The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

April 19, 2014

Tragedy makes return to Boston more important, local runners say

Kathy Wrensch ran the 2013 Boston Marathon with every intention of it being her last.

Wrensch, a 42-year-old Carl Junction resident, had competed in four consecutive marathons in Boston and decided with her husband, Randy, that they would start using their vacation time to travel other places.

Shortly after Wrensch finished the 2013 race in 3 hours, 48 minutes and 8 seconds, two bombs went off near the finish line. The explosions resulted in the deaths of three people and injuries to more than 260.

“I just had the mindset last year that I was just going to go out and totally enjoy the run, because I thought it was going to be my last one,” Wrensch said. “After everything happened, when we were watching TV that night I said, ‘We have to come back.’ My husband immediately said, ‘I’m right here with you. We’ll be back.’

Wrensch is not alone, as last year’s tragedy has seemed to make marathon runners more determined than ever to compete in Boston. The number of competitors has increased from 27,000 to 36,000. Volunteers have increased from 8,000 to 10,000. Estimates suggest there will be about 1 million spectators, which is twice as many as normal.

Local runners Wrensch, Scott Cichon, Ken Schramm, Nathan Sicher and Ashleigh Beyersdorfer are all returning to compete in Monday in the 118th edition of the Boston Marathon after being near last year’s tragedy. Webb City’s Marisa Forth and Carl Junction’s Karen Plucinski had planned on running again, but Forth is six months pregnant and Plucinski has been nursing a sore hamstring.

The returning competitors said last year’s tragedy makes running this year even more important.

“I knew I wanted to go back right away so much that I didn’t even really think about why I did,” said Cichon, who is a 28-year-old teacher and coach at St. Mary’s-Colgan in Pittsburg. “I think it’s inherent in being a marathoner that you want to do that. The toughest people I know are mothers, soldiers and marathon runners. Perseverance is built in to the job. We’re resilient, and we’re not going to let someone steal our joy and steal our freedom.”

“I decided no matter what that I wanted to go back,” said Schramm, a 50-year-old Joplin resident. “This is what we’re all about ... I wanted to go back because of all the people who were involved and injured. We want to run that race to show that we are strong and that something like that will not stop us.”

Sicher, a 33-year-old from Joplin, simply said, “It was automatic. I was going back.”

It took Beyersdorfer, a 39-year-old Joplin resident, a little longer.

“It didn’t take long, but that day I said that I would never go back there,” Beyersdorfer said. “I just wanted to go home. All I could think about was going home and hugging my kids. But I think it was the very next day that I got really angry. I thought this is exactly why people do things like this. It’s to stop people from doing things they love. I’m not going to allow it. So it became a thing to where I think I need to go back and face that fear.”

The local runners all have similar tales of how they learned about last year’s explosions and the events that followed.

Wrensch’s experience was particularly emotional.

She finished just about 20 minutes ahead of the first bomb and was only about a block and a half away when it went off. She could see the smoke wafting through the air.

Wrensch said she considers herself extremely lucky to have finished when she did.

“I wasn’t completely trained for that marathon like I usually am, so there’s no reason I should have finished as soon as I finished,” she said. “I feel like God had a part in me getting across sooner and not crossing closer to the time of the bombings.”

The day prompted a wide-range of emotions for the runners. Cichon and Sicher had both run personal bests, and Schramm and Beyersdorfer also had strong performances.

“To run Boston by itself and to finish is a thrill,” Cichon said. “And then to have a day where everything seems to fall into place and actually run a PR on such a tough course, it was incredible. You’re so happy and so proud of what you were able to accomplish. Then two hours later, you see this horrible thing and all those good feelings you had just vanish.”

Feeling cheated from that sense of accomplishment is a big reason many of the runners are back.

“You don’t want to let someone ruin it,” said Sicher, who is going to compete with his girlfriend Jenna Mutz. “It’s the whole “Boston Strong” thing. You’re not going to let someone ruin our sport. You almost want to not let it bother you. You want to come back and act like nothing ever happened.”

Wrensch has not set a goal time for herself this year. Instead, her fifth consecutive trip to the Boston Marathon is more about just coming back.

“It’s going to be beyond any marathon we’ve ever done,” Wrensch said. “There are going to be so many spectators. There’s going to be more energy. Everyone is so ready for this run and for the world to see that we’re here and fearless.”

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