Tish Hamilton was talking to herself, as many distance runners do. The 51-year-old was battling the hills of Newton for her 10th time, and she was promising herself this would be her final journey from Hopkinton to Boylston Street.
"I'm done, I 'm done with Boston," the voice inside her head said. "I'm getting older. I am a single mother with a young daughter and a full-time job. It's been a great chapter, but enough is enough."
Last year, Hamilton traveled from New Jersey to the Boston Marathon alone. As a representative for Runner's World magazine, she spent the days leading up to the Marathon speaking at seminars, attending functions, and networking at meet and greets. On race day, she put on her number, took her place at the start line and thought about the next 26.2 miles.
Four hours later, Hamilton took the turn off Hereford to Boylston and saw an explosion further up the street.
"You know when you get to the end and you get kind of stupid and you don't have many brain cells left and you're thinking, I just want to get across the finish line?" she said. "So when the first one one went off, I was thinking it was probably some underground main, there's something bad happening but I am still going to finish."
Just moments later, with the finish line in site, Hamilton knew her day was over.
"The second one went off and that one was closer to me, and I could see flames coming out of what I now know is a backpack, and I said out loud, 'Oh, that's not good.' I turned around and immediately thought, I've got to get home."
With nobody waiting for her at the finish, Hamilton instinctively jumped off the course and ran the other way.
"I didn't have family with me in Boston, so I immediately thought I've got to get home. I went into autopilot, like, 'Get me out of here.' I went to the Prudential Center where they kept the bags and managed to get mine before they shut it down. I changed my clothes, got to the airport and made my flight. It was only two hours after the bombs went off. It was like boom, boom, boom. I was determined to get out of there."
Hamilton was thinking about her 9-year-old daughter, not her press credential.
"There's that flight or fight reaction, and mine was to flee, get out. I completely forgot that I was a journalist working for Runner's World and that I might want to stay and do some work - it was just, 'Get me out of here.'”
Home safely, Hamilton dealt with the classic signs of aftershock.
"I think I was still in the flee mode. I was so hyper and I couldn't sit still. It was crazy. I was running everywhere. I was also very jumpy. If a loud sound went off, it would make me nervous."
Hamilton's company hired a counselor to help all the employees who had been in Boston and near the finish line that day.
"We sat in a room and talked about it," she said. "Talking about it made my heart race and sweaty. It was like my body was reliving the experience."
The day after the bombings Hamilton was asked by her mother if she would be going back to Boston. Her answer had more to do with the course than the attack.
"I said, ‘No.’ I was feeling Boston is a hard marathon, all the hills at the end. I've done it nine times, and it's time to do some other things."
Her mother replied, "You will."
Moms always know.
Hamilton's daughter also piped up. "You didn't cross the finish line last year, Mom. You gotta go back and cross that finish line."
This time Hamilton is running with a friend. On a training run, Hamilton asked her friend why they were doing this. “Why are we bringing our kids to Boston with us?”
Her friend said, "Because we are teaching them something. It shows bravery, resilience, and patriotism."
Hamilton will be dedicating her race to the spectators who were killed or injured last year.
"It's so hard for runners to see spectators get hurt because they are doing us such a huge favor by cheering us on. Especially someone like me, way back in the pack. So my wishes go out to those families first and foremost. To show them resilience and patriotism, and that something like that can't stop us - that's important to me."
"We can't let last year's events color all of Boston. We are taking it back. We are taking Boston back."
More from this blog on: Running