Boston Marathon: Coach Carroll competes in first Marathon Monday

By Max Sullivan
On April 22, 2014

UNH women's Track & Field coach Casey Carroll has always had the Boston Marathon on his mind. He's run a marathon virtually every year since the Maine Marathon in 2003, which he won. The 26.2 miles from Hopkinton, Mass., to Copley Square in downtown Boston has stood as a marathon runner's Mecca for years, and Carroll hoped to run it someday.

"Just hearing all the experiences from [friends who had run], after hearing all the great stories and how well its run and how unforgettable an experience it is," Carroll said. "It made me really want to run it as well."

Running a spring marathon isn't easy for a collegiate Track & Field coach to fit into his calendar, however. Carroll is committed to training his Wildcats all through the fall and winter. Unlike fall races, which one can train for in the summer, the Boston Marathon seemed impractical, and so he put it off, keeping it on his "bucket list."

Then on April 15, 2013, Carroll was approached by UNH men's Track & Field coach Jim Boulanger. Boulanger came out to the Reggie F. Atkins track where Carroll was training the Wildcat runners and informed him that a bombing had occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Carroll's mind raced. Who did he know that was there? Who was running? Spectating? There are plenty of people he knew who could even be working the event.

"When I found out the news about the bombing last year, I felt a feeling of helplessness," Carroll said.

Carroll was not directly related to any of that day's victims, but as a member of the running community, he felt a tug- it was time for him to enter. With Boulanger's support, he submitted his application in September of that year.

"I wanted to figure out a way to fight back, give back to the running community, so one of the ways that could be done was to do it, was to run the marathon," Carroll said. "After the events that happened last year, that influenced me to do that marathon even more and made me really want to be a part of that."

Yesterday morning, four months after he received his marathon confirmation letter and certificate in the mail, Carroll set out from his home Dover to Hopkinton with a friend, also running in the race. The two arrived in the small Massachusetts town at about seven in the morning, only five minutes before the town closed its roads down for the race. Had he been a few minutes later, the town would have locked him out of Hopkinton, closing off both exits from the highway. 

"They shut the town down," Carroll said. "They shut down the roads, and they would not let any cars get off the Hopkinton exit, northbound or southbound, shut down."

When the town closed its roads down, Carroll and his friend were told to park their car and walk the rest of the way to the athlete's village. He was relieved, as he'd been trapped in the car for over 90 minutes. He walked the last mile and a half to join the other 36,000 runners in at the Hopkinton middle and high schools.

At 9:05, his group, the second of the first wave, gathered and headed for the starting line. There, they watched the first corral- the race's elite runners- line up and take off. Carroll's start time was 10 a.m. When the time came, the gun went off, and the track coach was on his way. 

Carroll had heard about the Marathon crowds, but he was surprised when he saw the mobs that lined both sides of the course from start to finish. At one point, Carroll saw a man holding a sound level meter trying to get the crowd to roar as loud as possible as he and the thousands of other runners streamed down the road to Boston.

"It was wall-to-wall," Carroll said about the crowd. "It was incredible. In places, it was almost deafening."

After being hit with a surprise appearance by the sun at 11:30 a.m. in place of expected overcast, Carroll crossed the finish line at roughly 1 p.m. There, the crowd reveled in the thriving tradition of the Boston Marathon.

"There was definite emotion in the atmosphere at the finish line," Carroll said. "I do think, overall, it was a celebratory vibe that was going on, a victorious and celebratory vibe ... to have the running community rally together and run a one-of-a-kind of world class running event, even after the events of last year, it was just a day that was a big move forward."

To add to the celebration of life and strength, it was an American citizen, Meb Keflizighi, who won the race.

"It helps to have an American win the Boston Marathon for the first time in three decades," Carroll said.

After the race, Carroll took some time to relax and watch the finish line. A man with a megaphone asked runners as they ran by where they were from, and Carroll was fascinated by the places that were named. All fifty states were represented, as well as many European countries. An hour went by, and he and his friend decided to go.

Carroll finished with a time of 2:53.36, three minutes slower than his target. He was satisfied with that. A bad marathon day could mean finishing as much as 20 minutes behind a runner's target time. He said that he won't be entering the Marathon again anytime soon, but it meant a lot to him to enter this year.

"I think there are a lot of runners out there who rallied together and I think a part of it was in response to what happened last year," Carroll said. "It was an, 'I'm still running' kind of message."

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