Thwarted twice, determined runner goes back to Boston

Ellen Hunter-Gans
Ellen Hunter-Gans, in a white hat, competed in Grandma's Marathon in Duluth.
Courtesy of Ellen Hunter-Gans

In 2012, Edina runner Ellen Hunter-Gans had finally achieved one of her major life ambitions: She had qualified for the Boston Marathon. But just weeks before the race, she slipped on some ice and broke her leg.

Not one to let a Minnesota winter get in her way, Hunter-Gans made it back to Boston last year. She was 12 weeks pregnant and, with her doctor's permission, following through with her dream race.

The Boston Marathon bombings killed three people and injured hundreds. Now a year after the attacks, she's going back to Boston to run — and finish — the race, and be part of the "Boston Strong" experience that has been building over the past year.

Tom Weber interviewed Hunter-Gans for Friday's Daily Circuit. Highlights of that conversation:

The first sign of trouble
The first indication that anything was really wrong was I crested a hill at around 25 and a half miles, and saw a mass of people standing in the road. My first thought was, 'Well, I've got to get through these people.' It quickly became evident that it was actually a blockade from security. We knew we were stopping; nobody really understood why, at that point. Rumors were swirling that there had been a bomb threat. No one seemed to understand that bombs had actually gone off.

We all stood there for about 45 minutes, which after having run more than 25 miles, was pretty jarring to people. Although us being tired and standing out there was certainly an experience that was dwarfed, and something nobody wanted to complain about as we slowly began to learn what had happened. ...

Finishing race was 'last thing on my mind'
I actually heard a few people complaining about being so close to the finish — you know, 'Can't you just let us finish?' — but that was when nobody understood what had actually happened. We didn't even know that there were any casualties. And I think that was the last thing on anyone's mind, finishing certainly was the last thing on my mind as we began to understand the enormity of what had happened.

Thousands who 'won't be intimidated'
The moment I heard that I was going to be allowed to do it, I booked a hotel room. ... I think a lot of it has to do with seeking a little bit of closure. And that sounds very self-important, because again, that day and what happened is so much bigger than me and my race. But I like the idea of being part of what will inevitably be tens of thousands of people sending the message that they won't be intimidated. And also the opportunity to honor those who were affected that day. That's very compelling for me.