BAR HARBOR, Maine — Nearly three weeks later, Lori Bartlett’s words remained filled with emotion as she recalled her family’s experience at the 117th Boston Marathon.
Bartlett, a Bar Harbor police and fire dispatcher, was running in the historic race for the first time in conjunction with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, which raises funds for cancer research.
Nagged by a hamstring injury, she was proceeding slowly along the 26.2-mile route from Hopkinton to Boston when suddenly her run ended prematurely.
“I made it to Mile 24 and then had to stop because police were there and had put up yellow tape,” Bartlett said.
The runners were made aware that two bombs had been detonated near the finish line, and Bartlett’s attention immediately turned to trying to contact her husband, Matt — Bar Harbor’s fire chief — and daughter Anna. They had been seated in a grandstand along Boylston Street waiting for her to complete the race and witnessed the explosions that killed three people and hospitalized hundreds more.
“They were directing runners to walk back toward a synagogue nearby where they were bringing a bus for the runners,” Bartlett said. “But I didn’t want to do that because I wanted to get in contact with my family who were all at the finish line.”
Some agonizing moments preceded Bartlett’s initial cellphone contact with her daughter, but there was relief in learning the family was unharmed. An uncertain hour followed on city streets around the crime scene as they sought to reunite, but ultimately they did meet up and quickly left the city.
“I must have walked another eight miles,” said Bartlett. “I just wanted to get out of there.”
Bartlett and several thousand other runners were unable to finish the Boston Marathon in the aftermath of the bombings, but she and 24 other race participants from around the country will get the chance Sunday to run in the Pittsburgh Marathon with all expenses paid by race sponsor Dick’s Sporting Goods as a show of support for those affected by the April 15 incident.
Bartlett was recommended for the trip by Mount Desert Island Marathon director Gary Allen.
“I was contacted last week by my friend and fellow race official Jonathan Kissel from the Pittsburgh Marathon,” Allen said in an email. “He asked if I knew anyone, and the first name that came to mind was Lori Bartlett of the Bar Harbor PD. She was stopped less than two miles from the finish and had raised thousands of dollars for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in order to be there.”
Bartlett will leave Saturday morning for Pittsburgh, run the marathon at 7 a.m. Sunday and return home Sunday evening.
She is leaving her husband and daughter behind this time, the memories of their close call at Boston too vivid.
“I really didn’t want them back at the finish line,” she said.
The Pittsburgh Marathon will test Bartlett on multiple fronts.
“It will be a physical and mental challenge just because of the totality of everything that’s happened,” Bartlett said. “But thinking about the people that were affected on April 15 will make me more determined.”
Bartlett competed in her first marathon on MDI in 2008 — both running and walking during the race.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into back then,” she said.
By the summer of 2011 she caught the running bug, and last year Bartlett participated in the MDI Marathon as part of the Bar Harbor Police Department relay team.
This weekend, 20 days removed from running 24 miles at Boston, she’ll seek to complete 26.2 more miles in Pittsburgh.
“I know it’s not going to be easy,” said Bartlett, who grew up not far from Pittsburgh in Morgantown, W.Va. “But in terms of training I’m looking at Boston as my long run and I’ve been tapering since then.”
Her hamstring also remains a problem.
“It’s still a little sore,” she said. “At Boston I was hoping to be about 4 hours and 20 minutes, but the hamstring made me run slower. It was tight.”
But Bartlett considers those physical challenges relatively minor compared with the larger issues she and her 24 Boston Marathon compatriots will represent — running out of respect for those unable to run in the aftermath of the bombings, and not succumbing to acts of terrorism.
“It’s in the back of my head,” said Bartlett, who also hopes to run Boston next year. “But what you have to do is face your fears, and I’ll be thinking about April 15 all the way through.”
Anyone who wants to make a donation to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge on Lori Bartlett’s behalf may access http://www.rundfmc.org, go to “Support a Runner,” and type in her name to begin the process.