The last time Roseann Sdoia attended a road race, terror shattered the course and left her with a leg amputated above the knee. Tonight, she’ll be back to sound the starting horn as racing returns to downtown Boston.
“I have mixed emotions because I should be there running, but I’m not,” said Sdoia, 45, who has undergone three surgeries since the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured more than 260 people.
Tonight’s 3.5-mile J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge race, which starts at 7:20 p.m., is one of the first organized competitions in downtown Boston since the terrorist attack. It begins at the Boston Common and runs parallel to the last mile or so of the marathon course. For many participants, the event is an emotional return to a neighborhood devastated by the twin bomb blasts.
“The race itself symbolizes a lot of the running community and the Boston community coming together and really slowly taking back the city and taking back running,” said Cara Bednar, 28, who finished the marathon in under four hours, about 10 to 15 minutes before the first blast.
About 12,000 people from 569 companies are registered for tonight’s race, said Erich Timmerman, a spokesman for New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), which is organizing the event. JPMorgan, the largest U.S. bank, is donating all registration fees, about $500,000, to One Fund Boston, which was created to assist victims of the bombings and their families, he said.
“Boston was my home for eight years and it has been home to our corporate challenge for the past 30 years,” said JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, 57, who attended Tufts University and Harvard Business School in the Boston area. “It’s a great tradition, a really enjoyable night and this year supports a cause that is very close to all of our hearts.”
A veteran of 15 marathons, Bednar said loud bangs at races and large crowds now make her nervous, especially at the start of a run.
“Now I don’t run with headphones,” she said. “I try to keep my distance and look at what’s around me, look at what’s happening in the crowds.”
Bednar, who works for the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she initially thought the first bomb was some sort of celebratory shot.
“Then we heard the second blast going off,” she said. “That’s when people started ripping up the tables and the barricades and started driving the reverse way up Boylston” Street, she said.
Bednar and her sister, who joined her for the last few miles of the race, spent the next two hours looking for their brother and his 2- and 4-year-old children who came to watch their aunts cross the finish line, she said.
Along the way, a stranger came out of her house to give Bednar and her sister long-sleeved shirts to keep the chill away. They found family friends who helped reconnect the two with their parents and brother, who were all safe.
Seven of Sdoia’s colleagues at National Development, a Newton, Massachusetts-based real estate development firm, agreed to run when she organized their corporate challenge team in March. After the attack, the office team swelled to about 80 people, she said.
Sdoia and a friend had left a Red Sox baseball game early on April 15 to watch two acquaintances finish the race when she heard the first bomb go off. While she thought it odd, she wasn’t alarmed until the man next to her directed everyone to move into the street.
“He started climbing over the barrier,” she said. “But I was much shorter and turned to my right to run and basically ran right into the explosion with the second bomb.”
The blast knocked her down. The ground was covered with blood and her right leg was bleeding profusely, she said. A local college student applied a tourniquet and carried her to safety.
Sdoia received her prosthetic leg this week and said she wants to eventually get a running blade so she can resume her workouts.
“I’m excited to get my leg, but it’s bittersweet because of the reason why I’m getting it,” Sdoia said. “My life has changed so much.”
Runners will see heightened security at tonight’s event. Participants aren’t allowed to bring large bags or backpacks, which is how the bombs were hidden in April, organizers said. The Boston Police Department will probably have bomb-sniffing dogs and explosives technicians on site, said Cheryl Fiandaca, a department spokeswoman.
For Sdoia, tonight’s race shows that the city and its residents are returning to their regular routines.
“I’ll be back to my normal life sooner or later, as well,” she said. “People move on and you have to just keep moving forward.”