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Harvard Coach Linda Muri Doesn't Let Cancer Keep Her From Boston Marathon Finish Line

There were 32,456 runners who crossed the starting line in Monday's Boston Marathon. Ninety-eight percent of them finished the race. There were at least that many individual stories, each one a real-life example of someone competing to win, raising money for an important charity or pushing themselves to cover 26.2 miles on foot.

Earlier Monday, bombing survivor and recent newlywed Marc Fucarile finally got to throw out the first pitch before Monday's Red Sox game at Fenway Park. That, he said last October, was his initial goal for this Patriots Day. However, his fear of throwing out a first pitch before a Red Sox loss was realized.

That 7-6 defeat at the hands of the Orioles was a minor glitch on this otherwise glorious day in the Hub and throughout Greater Boston.

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The marathon finish line, a place of terror, murder, and mayhem just 371 days earlier, was turned into the ultimate living definition of "Boston Strong." Among the survivors, there were Jeff Bauman, Adrianne Haslet-Davis, and Celeste and Sydney Corcoran. "Negative power is officially gone from this spot," Celeste Corcoran, who lost both legs in last year's attack, said after crossing the finish line with her sister and Sydney Cochran. "Terrorists never, ever win."

They never had a chance against this field.

There were no "typical" runners in this year's race, rather 32,456 atypical entrants who on their own are exceptional. Each is worthy of a column, blog post, social media thread, or 90-second video.

Linda Muri wore bib Number 28447 on Monday. She finished the race in four hours, 57 minutes, and 35 seconds. That was good for 26,995th place overall. Suffice to say, women's elite winner Rita Jeptoo didn't have Muri on her radar.

Muri wasn't concerned about her finishing time on Monday, just that she finished. Muri's short journey to the starting line in Hopkinton from her home in Watertown hit a cavernous roadblock six weeks ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I am three weeks into chemo, so any finish was good," Muri, the freshman lightweight crew coach at Harvard, told The OBF Blog via email Monday evening. She made the decision to attempt to run Boston last April 15, when those two explosions cost the lives of Martin Richard, Krystle Marie Campbell, and Lingzi Lu. More than 260 were injured. MIT Badge Number 179 Sean Collier was allegedly murdered three days later. The subsequent shootout, and manhunt for the surviving alleged bomber, ended about a mile from Muri's Watertown home. It was poetic that the names of the four who lost their lives crossed the finish line just ahead of winner Meb Keflezighi, as they were written on his MEB bib.

"Last year on April 15th, I committed to run," she said. "I live in Watertown so it was going to take hell or high water to keep me from running."

The high water of the Charles River could not offer any escape for the surviving accused bomber aboard Dave Henneberry's Slip Away II. But there was plenty of hell in Watertown last April 18 and 19, and for Muri once she learned she had breast cancer.

"I didn't expect [that] diagnosis six weeks ago," she said. Muri has been documenting the challenges of her journey on ihopetheycaughtitntime blog.

From Friday, April 18:

Next up, the Boston Marathon, bib # 28447, wave 4. As long as I feel ok for the rest of the weekend - and a few key results on the water could only add to to that, ahem, HVL and HFL - I'll be going for the run on Monday. Cautiously, of course. The need to finish is overridden by my desire for survival at all costs. And, honestly, the training, this winter especially, was my way of honoring the commitment I made on April 15, 2013, to run this year, April 21, 2014, along with demonstrating the resiliency and strength of Boston, Watertown, and all those involved in the mayhem that came to be that week last year. Yes, I'd love to run, hardly anything would make me more delighted at this point in time than conquering a most terrifying obstacle that I have actually placed in my path, not something that just appeared, but I also know that I have to be smart. Carry on!

She was able to carry through the entire course Monday.

"I was moved originally to do the marathon because of last year, but today also linked in my battle with breast cancer. The whole Boston Strong/Watertown Strong made it very emotional for me and I enjoyed celebrating the resiliency of the whole community."

From Sunday, April 20:

Looks like the Marathon (just another long training run, right) is a go for tomorrow - woohoo! I am nervous, but excited to have this amazing opportunity to take advantage of for myself and to demonstrate resiliency in so many ways, more ways than I ever anticipated! Bib #28447.

She has thrived on the support and positive notes she received prior to the race. "I am overwhelmed in the best possible way. It gives me so much strength, especially at times when I am feeling a little less robust than usual, which does happen."

Muri, 51, is wicked smaht in addition to being wicked strong. She earned a degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering at MIT in 1986 and a master's degree in education from Harvard in 1997. She is in her 13th season coaching the Crimson. The award for the annual Harvard-Radcliffe/MIT lightweight crew showdown is named in her honor. Harvard-Radcliffe won its fourth-straight Muri Cup Sunday on the Charles River.

The team raced Sunday while wearing pink to support Muri. Team members turned out on Boylston Street to cheer on their coach as she finished the race.

"The crowds along the course were terrific. It thinned out a little around mile 21-22 but other than that remarkable," Muri said Monday. "Especially the last stretch to the finish line on Boylston. The crowd was just incredible. It was also amazing to see my rowing team show up to cheer me on just before the turn onto Boylston."

This was Muri's second marathon. "I thought it would be easier but again with the high temps and chemo, I was a bit short of the mark, understandably so."

Understatement of the week.

Muri, like her fellow runners, was awash in good wishes before and during the race. Karma was queen Monday and she was all good. Muri's biggest fan, however, likely wasn't in Boston.

Her sister, Suzanne Bright, lives in North Carolina. She summed it up in an email. "I am crazy proud of this woman," she wrote.

As are the rest of us.

The OBF Blog is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Got a news tip, want to let him know directly what you think, have a complaint or compliment about his "aggressively relevant" content or hate people who speak about themselves in the third person, hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or hit him on at his
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