Habit is something Rachael Bickerton holds true to her heart. For the Director of Trademark and Licensing at Boise State, there was an imminent need to break her unhealthy habit of smoking, especially when she moved to Boise five years ago. The London, England native took a different approach to nix the nicotine habit: by starting another habit in long-distance running.
“I decided I would start running every time I craved a cigarette,” Bickerton said. “I would run for seven minutes because it takes seven minutes to smoke a cigarette in my head.”
This running routine began to build and build for Bickerton, as she started with the basics of the Treasure Valley running events, with the Beat Coach Pete race in 2009, to the upper echelon races with The Race to Robie Creek a year later.
Bickerton’s craving for long-distance running expanded beyond the Gem State and into the national running realm, as she signed up for her first Boston Marathon four years ago.
From 2009-2013, Bickerton had competed in one Boston Marathon and four others under her built. The 2013 Boston Marathon was set to be her sixth marathon total.
However, just days before taking off out of the Boise Airport, this year’s marathon felt a bit different for Bickerton.
Whether it was the tough training conditions from the inversion this winter or the inability to commit to training, Bickerton did not have her routine pragmatic running attitude toward this year’s
“I said to myself, ‘this is my last Boston. I’m done,’” Bickerton said. “My mindset was very different this time around.”
After landing in Logan International Airport Friday afternoon, the vibrant, warm weather coupled with her group of 20+ runners (with more than a handful coming from Boise) set the foundation for a relaxing weekend for Bickerton in Boston. Before she knew it, Monday morning crept up on her, greeted by New England’s icy touch at the starting line in Hopkinton, Mass.
As the tens of thousands road runners took off with the firing of the official’s starting pistol, Bickerton was her habitual self off the line, ignoring the crowds of 500,000+ along with the screaming and cheering from the sidelines throughout the 26.2 mile-long course.
It was toward the end of the race where the unsettling feeling hit Bickerton, that same feeling she felt while back in Boise before the marathon.
“One of my friends that I was running with, I ran the first 10 miles with her and she’s much faster than me,” Bickerton said. “After 10 miles I said, ‘Go ahead.’ She ran slower than she wanted and finished 20 seconds ahead of me.”
While it was strange for Bickerton, she was able to get through the last leg of the marathon through her husband’s magnified cheering despite the drowning crowd noise.
Bickerton’s final time of three hours, 25 minutes and two seconds was her second best marathon time.
There wasn’t much time for celebration, as the sea of smiles and hugs gravely changed within the span of an hour.
Running from danger
Bickerton had just finished going through the factory line of Gatorade tables, medal hand offs and bag distributions at the finish line as her and her husband were waiting for a friend when one friend in the group insisted on leaving due to the chilly coastal winds.
Two blocks from the race site, the group heard a
“You felt the bomb as it reverberated,” Bickerton said. “We didn’t smell anything at the time. Everyone around just stopped.”
It must be a Patriot’s Day cannon, the group said.
Minutes later, a second bang was heard, louder than the initial explosion.
The answer was made clear as the group, who was rapidly heading toward their hotel nearby, was greeted with a surreal sight:
“Three different things were going on at the hotel,” Bickerton said. “Right of the hotel had runners coming from the family meeting area. The hotel was still operating as normal in the center but toward the left people were running away and crying from the explosion.”
The day’s events had grimly transposed within a blink
of an eye.
Bickerton, who was in New York City on 9/11 and witnessed the second plane crash into the World Trade Center, knew she was in the middle of a major security threat. And as she anxiously waited in a Westin Hotel elevator to get to her friend’s hotel room, Bickerton had an unreal personal
“I said to myself “well if I die now, I’ll just die’,” Bickerton said. “So I might as well just be safe with my friends. Whatever’s going to happen, will happen.”
After the blasts
The first initial hour after the explosion, friends and running mates all congregated in Bickerton’s friend’s hotel room, awaiting answers from the chaos outside the
The flashing lights of the ambulance brigade down the corner from their hotel room juxtaposed with the clear Boston night sky, adding to the hypnagogic effect parlayed from the afternoon’s catastrophic events.
In a much-needed relief, Bickerton and her group found out the Westin was the safest place in Boston to be as the emergency press conference was being held there. Even though they were protected in a Fort Knox-like fashion with the countless number of armed officials, it was time for Bickerton and her husband to head to their hotel in Cambridge to catch their early-morning flight back to Boise.
The chaos only continued for the two, as the connecting flight in Chicago, an American Airlines flight occupied with a handful of marathon runners, was brought back to the runway at Logan.
The reason? Two Middle Eastern men were escorted off their flight, as they made some of the runners uncomfortable on board with their Farsi
“I felt sorry for the two gentlemen profiled but there were nervous runners on the plane,” Bickerton said.
And to top it off, Bickerton’s luggage did not make it to the baggage claim late Tuesday night in Boise.
“I just burst into tears,” Bickerton said. “I just wanted to
Running with reality
Two weeks have passed from the horrific events in Boston yet Bickerton still struggles emotionally in reflecting on her recent marathon memory.
“There’s survivor guilt, I feel upset and I cry at random moments,” Bickerton said. “Then I go, ‘Why should I be crying?’ I still have all my limbs; I still have all my loved ones back in Boise. I’m in
a safe place.”
In what has offered a bit of closure, Bickerton kept tabs on the manhunt of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the bombing terrorists.
“These guys took away a great memory,” Bickerton said. ”I finished with my second fast time ever and I can’t look at my medal.”
She also continues to talk to friends about the unpleasant
“It’s cathartic to talk about because your emotions change each day,” Bickerton said. “I’m different how I treat my friends. I tell them I love them much more, hugging people more and relishing in my friendships.”
Despite what had occured, Bickerton’s addiction couldn’t be curbed from a sole dark memory, despite her previous proclamation of never running the marathon again. It’s just not in Bickerton’s new-founded racing blood to let such a tragedy get in the way of her personal finish line.
“I already booked my hotel last Saturday night for next year’s Boston Marathon,” Bickerton said with a smile. “I can’t have that be my last marathon event.”
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