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The Catalyst

Carter strong: Marathon runner returns to Boston

By Mikie Hayes
Public Relations

 

MUSC Sodexo dietitian Janet Carter celebrates finishing her first Boston Marathon race on April 21. Last year, she was unable to finish due to the bombing. photos by Jackie Regan

Feeling elated and relieved and dripping with perspiration, Janet Carter crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon in 3:40:21. This particular achievement held great significance for her. As Carter and 31,930 other runners finished the famed race, they showed the world their courage and resolve.

April 21, 2014 marked a year and a week that Carter, MS, RD, a Sodexo dietitian and manager of the MUSC Heart Health Program for children, had waited to finish the famous 26.2 mile race she had been robbed of completing the year before. Nothing was going to stop her this year — not fear of the unknown, not intrusive security measures, not even the objections of well–meaning friends.

The year before, with less than four miles to the end of the course, Carter’s dream of adding the Boston Marathon to her impressive record of races, marathons and Ironman triathlons was put on hold through no fault of her own.

After dual explosions resulting from the detonation of pressure cooker bombs that released nails, metal shards and ball bearings near the finish line, officials stopped runners in their tracks for their own protection.

In those first moments after the bombs exploded, details were scarce. The only things Carter knew for certain were there had been explosions near the finish line, her father was supposed to be waiting for her in that general vicinity and she had no cell phone to contact him to make sure he was safe.

Although he had been a mere 200 yards from the site of the first explosion, he had been incredibly lucky. 

“The entire experience was very scary last year. We were right near the Prudential Center,” said Glenn Carter, Janet’s father. “This year, there was a much greater police presence.”

Carter agreed and said there were more safety protocols in place such as not being able to carry bags into the Athletes’ Village as well as numerous check points.

For some, having been so close to a tragedy of that proportion would deter them from trying again. Not Carter. She was ready to race again.

Along with first-timers and veterans of the race, this year’s field of runners included those who had finished the race last year, many like Carter who were prevented from finishing after the explosions, some who had healed from the wounds they sustained the year before, and those who ran in memory of a runner, spectator, or first responder who had died in the tragedy.

The Boston Marathon is the event of the spring season and “Boston Strong” was the motto that participants, spectators and Bostonians alike adopted as they took back their city, race and finish line.

The enthusiastic support of the spectators is one of Carter’s favorite aspects of the marathon. “The most fun part is slapping the kids’ hands along the way,” she said. “People in Boston go all out, more so than at any other event.

People wore T–shirts with all types of slogans. There were bikers dressed in full leather jamming out and high-fiving the runners. Wellesley girls held up signs that read ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish!’ ‘Kiss me, I’m a senior!’ ‘Kiss me, I love you!’ as we ran past and many runners took them up on their offer.”

Even the Elvis impersonator who performs for the runners was there again this year.  “He’s actually really good,” she said.

Boston marathon finisher Janet Carter celebrates with her nephews, Mitchell, back center; and Harrison, right; and niece, Mia Carter.

Although Carter fully enjoyed taking in the scenery and the support of the crowds, stopping at Mile 9 to “hang out” with family who live in the area was one of the highlights of her experience. Her two nephews and a niece were waiting to greet her, take pictures and provide moral support for the remaining 17.2 miles.

As she ran the course, she was very aware of her surroundings, but didn’t feel particularly nervous. However, she was happy to make it past the spot where the race ended for her the year before.

“I had an ‘aha moment’ when I passed the spot I had stopped at last year. It was cool and everything from there on out was all new to me. I was just taking it all in, really experiencing every moment. When you run you notice a lot. It was Boston; I wanted to really experience every bit of it,” she said.

As the course brought her into the downtown Boston area, she had a realization that the thousands of people lining the streets were in the same spots where the explosions had taken place the year before. “It was a sea of people and everyone was cheering,” she said. “It was amazing. I thought to myself, ‘these people have a lot of guts to be back down here.’ The patriotism and pride were literally palpable.”

As she recognized she was getting close to the finish, she kicked it into high gear until the end. At the moment she accomplished her goal, she felt euphoric. “My first thought was, ‘Yeah! It’s over! Thank God I’m done.’  It went so much by faster than any race I’d ever done before because of the crowd support. It was just amazing. The miles just buzzed by. It was especially fun running the streets near the finish line.”

Not long after, a second wave of emotion hit her as she passed the line she longed to clear for a very long time. “I did think to myself, ‘I’m safe. I’m ok.’ I thought about how close Dad had been to the explosions last year and how relieved I was that nothing had happened to him.”   

There was never a moment Carter considered withdrawing from the marathon. Beyond her ability to focus through grueling triathlons, which combine a 2.4–mile swim, a 112–mile bike ride and a full marathon, she is a pragmatist.   

“You can’t live scared or you’re not living,” she said. “There’s not a lot I can do if something is happening. Worrying is not going to help. Staying home is not going to help. I don’t dwell on the negative.”

She inherited that attitude from her father who echoed those sentiments. “We were happy to be there again. We weren’t apprehensive in the least. You have to be aware, not afraid. Janet did a very good job and when it’s all said and done, we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Waiting for her at the finish line along with her father were girlfriend Jackie Regan and friend  Melanie Beach who lives in Boston. All were thrilled to have witnessed Carter safely complete the Boston Marathon.

This year’s finish line reunion was particularly rewarding.

Carter feels privileged to have been a part of something so important and especially enjoys wearing her 2013 Boston Marathon jacket. The intense blue windbreaker with bright yellow accents serves as a badge of honor she wears with pride.

People constantly asked her if she was there during the explosions and if she would go back and run again. Her answers were yes and absolutely yes. “Honestly, I feel really proud wearing the jacket from last year. I was there. It was a particularly significant time in my life,” Carter said.

 

May 2, 2014

 

 
 
 

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