By Yolanda Holder
I grew up watching the Boston Marathon on TV and thought to myself, I will never be able to go to Boston because I’m not a runner and I’m not an athlete. Five years ago for my 50th birthday I power walked 65 marathons/ultras in 52 weeks which started my journey as a Power Walking Diva. Being a 2x Guinness World Record holder for the “Most Marathons Run in a Calendar Year” has opened up many doors. I have power walked over 471 marathons which included the LA Marathon, San Francisco , San Diego, Seattle, Honolulu and the New York Marathon just to name a few, but never the Boston Marathon. Losing both my parents to diabetes complications and wanting to honor my mom I founded Extreme Walk 4 Diabetes. I power walked from Corona to Oakland, 521 miles in 15 days, spreading the word about the benefits of walking and diabetes. After completing EW4D I was invited to be on a relay team mini “Run for Tomorrow” Ottawa, Canada to New York City Marathon. Being a member on the R4T team we were invited to run the Boston Marathon.
I had never been to Boston and I was excited for two reasons. One I’m power walking a marathon in every state and Boston would be state #30 and I’m power walking the Boston Marathon a dream come true!
I arrived at the expo and met for the first time a few of my R4T team members and took lots of pictures with my marathon friends. What I love about marathoning is that you get to meet people from around the world and you get to travel to places you only dream of and the Boston Marathon was one of my dreams. The Boston expo had legend runner speakers and I got to hear some of them speak and I met some of my Facebook friends as well.
On the morning of the Marathon, I was excited and I had been training to set a personal record (PR) at Boston. My PR for a marathon is 5:26 and my goal was 5:19. I was on pace and feeling good. I was coming up on mile 20 and I could hear sirens and usually when we hear a siren we say a prayer and hope that the runner is okay, but these sirens didn’t stop and my cell phone started ringing and beeping with texts asking me if I was okay. I took my brothers call and said, “What do you want? I’m at the Boston Marathon trying to set a PR and you keep calling me!” My brother said “a bomb went off at the finish line are you near there?” As I was approaching mile 20 a volunteer approached me and said the race has been cancelled and you need to go inside the medical tent.
There were about 15 of us in the medical tent and we were taken to Newton City Hall. The Mayor and his staff took very good care of us and kept us safe. I didn’t know the magnitude of this horrible act of violence until I arrived at my hotel room around 10 p.m. that night and I broke down and cried. I couldn’t believe that I was that close to the bombing and I felt awful for the families that were affected by this terrible act of terrorism.
I practice what I preach walking 30 minutes a day, but now after the bombing I don’t take my life for granted. Every day is a gift from God and I’m blessed to wake up every morning and able to do what I love, Walking. I’m headed back to Boston not to set a PR, but to finish with a smile on my face, I’m Boston Strong!