BOSTON — Thousands of runners whose Boston Marathon was cut short by the deadly bombings at the finish line will be invited back next year, the organizer of the race said on Thursday.
“The opportunity to run down Boylston Street and to cross the finish line amid thousands of spectators is a significant part of the entire Boston Marathon experience,” said Tom Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the race. “With the opportunity to return and participate in 2014, we look forward to inviting back these athletes and we expect that most will renew their marathon training commitment.”
About 5,600 entrants will be eligible for return invites in 2014. Included is Allison Quinlan of Hampton, who was two minutes away from the finish line before she heard the bombs a block away on Boylston Street.
“I got the e-mail today (Thursday from the Boston Athletic Association) and I think it’s a great decision on their part to invite those who didn’t finish back,” said Quinlan, who was participating in her first Boston Marathon this year.
“You train for so many months and miles and to see the finish line, right there within your sites, and not cross, it is something I feel I still need to do,” she said. “You’re running towards the finish line and suddenly you find yourself running away from it in the opposite direction, So for me there’s definitely some unfinished business.”
Quinlan, who still remembers seeing the smoke from the bombs near the finish line, said sometimes she’s reminded of that horrible incident.
“Recently I was going by a construction site and heard this loud bang, which made me quickly think of the Boston Marathon,” she said. “It brought back thoughts of the terror that happened that day.”
Because of the bombings, Quinlan said, she’s going back to the marathon next year to not only finish the race, but to join her fellow runners.
“It’s about ‘Boston Strong’ and it’s about being part of a running community that is resilient,” said Quinlan. “What happened last month is not going to stop us from coming back and running the Boston Marathon. There’s so much history attached to that race and we’re not going to let one negative incident stop us from coming back.”
The Boston Marathon attracts runners from the United States and all over the world who sometimes train for years to qualify, with most competitors required to post fast times in other 26.2 mile races to earn a spot in the 27,000-runner field.
This year’s race was halted at 2:50 p.m. on April 15 when two pressure cooker bombs left at the finish line exploded in a crowd of thousands of spectators and athletes, killing three people and injuring 264 others.