Ten years ago evil attacked Boston, thinking its destruction could change our landscape forever. Well, it did. We are that much stronger. Elizabeth Pehota shares reflections from ten different folks, ten years later, on why the Boston Marathon and the city of Boston are unlike anything on earth. Wrong city to mess with.

Image Credit: Charles Krupa/Associated Press

STRENGTH and pride stand the test of time as central pillars of Boston’s identity. They ring true to Boston’s core – in both the highest of highs and lowest of lows. 

That unparalleled, unique camaraderie evolved into a globally recognized mantra: Boston Strong.  

This renowned anthem has become a beloved saying as it represents the city’s resilience, grit, and fight. As Boston’s sports teams have secured 40+ titles and continually vie for championships, it embodies their determination.  

It was vibrantly demonstrated in American Meb Keflezighi’s historic and emotional 2014 Boston Marathon victory. Before the phrase was coined, it even epitomizes the city’s toughness in the 1773 Boston Tea Party centuries prior.  

Image via DreamsTime.com

However, there is one deeply tragic moment in history that originally created and prominently defined ‘Boston Strong’: The 2013 Boston Marathon.  

Photo provided by Roseann Sdoia


REWIND ten years ago. Time stood still on April 15, 2013 as the fabric of Boston’s history was forever altered. 

Runners and spectators had come from all over the globe to celebrate the most prestigious 26.2 miles in the world. At 2:49pm, hours after runners had begun crossing the finish line, chaos erupted as two explosions boomed moments apart, turning cheers into screams and forcing runners to halt in their tracks. The blasts were two pressure-cooker bombs placed at the edge of the finish line on Boylston Street that detonated, shocking Boston to its core. 

“You knew immediately that something was wrong,” said Jacqui Webb, an injured spectator near the finish line. 

“There were 12 seconds between the bombings,” said Webb. “I will tell you to this day, it seemed like a lifetime between those two bombs. And I still can’t believe it was only 12 seconds.” 

The blasts knocked spectators and runners off their feet – shattering windows and painting the sidewalks with blood as smoke ascended into the sky as cries for help reverberated between buildings. 

Casualties and panic overtook Boylston Street, with hundreds injured and requiring medical attention. 

“It was a fight or flight scenario,” said Roseann Sdoia, another spectator survivor of the bombing and amputee. “When the first bomb went off, at that moment, I realized I needed to get the heck out of there. I turned to run, but when that second bomb went off, I was completely knocked off my feet..” 

“And, I knew that if I didn’t get help, I would die.” 

As the horrific events of the Boston Marathon bombings wreaked havoc ten years ago, Boston united in a way that was stronger than ever. “Boston Strong” goes beyond mere strength, to Bostonians’ ability to unite, overcome calamity and to find the good emerging out of tragedy, truly demonstrating how good triumphed over evil. 

This is a tale of Boston’s last decade of resilience through the lens of the survivors, amputees, and runners from 2013-2023.  

Image via DreamsTime.com

ROSEANN SDOIA-MATERIA – Marathon Survivor and Amputee 

AS Rosann Sdoia was transported to the hospital in a paddy wagon with a firefighter, her life would soon forever change in a multitude of ways. 

“When the surgeon saw me, he knew it was an IED explosion,” said Sdoia. “He knew what the injuries were and what he needed to do in order to save my life.” 

“I let myself go and passed out. They kept me in a sedated coma for 24 hours to make sure that I would pull through and live. I did not know that they amputated my leg or that it was going to be amputated.” 

Photo provided by Roseann Sdoia

As a realist, Sdoia understood the gravity of the situation – She had lost her leg in the bombings. However, she chose to focus her life on gratitude and set out on an unexpected journey, learning how to adapt to a new way of living as an amputee. 

“Even today, every day is always a different bit of a challenge. It doesn’t matter how many years out you are as an amputee. It’s a slow road from day one and beyond, but you can have the quality of life by putting the work into it. 

“My prosthetic weighs 10 pounds so if I’m not constantly working the surrounding muscles, I walk differently which can lead to back issues. It’s an ongoing battle of trying to be active every day, doing something to mobilize those muscles, but you just have to do it.”

Between physically healing from the surgery and on-site burn wounds, prosthetists appointments, as well as physically and emotionally adapting to a different way of living, Sdoia felt lucky for her support system. 

In fact, one individual stood out particularly – the firefighter who accompanied her from the bombing site to the hospital. He visited her every day during her stay, and provided superfluous support and comfort in a time of need. 

“He would come and have lunch with me, then we would go to these appointments together,” said Sdoia. “Over the course of the next several months, we ended up spending a lot of time with each other. Out of that, our relationship blossomed. We started dating and eventually got engaged, then married.” 

Out of a tragedy that took her leg, Sdoia gained the love of her life – and her husband wasn’t the only positive aspect born from the tragedy. 

Photo provided by Roseann Sdoia

With life altering circumstances, Sdoia moved forward with strength fueled by her deep desire to help others affected by trauma. Through public speaking and sessions working with amputees, Sdoia has made it her life goal to aid others in difficult situations, and also wrote a book detailing her experience called ‘Perfect Strangers. 

“If I can help one person, like those people that came out of the woodwork to help us, that’s what I want to do,” said Sdoia. “I can share my experience, my little tricks, from the 10 years of living it. I need to pay it forward to those that I can help.”


JACQUI WEBB – Injured Marathon Survivor 

AS a spectator cheering at the finish line, Jacqui Webb would have never expected for her life to drastically change in a mere matter of 12 seconds. 

Following the explosion, Webb looked down at her legs and immediately realized the physical impact of the blow. 

Image: Eric Snyder | MUA: Shaunna Legatos

“I had three baseball sized holes from my knee to my ankle on my right leg,” said Webb. “Of course, I’m thinking I’m going to lose my leg.” 

Webb had run ahead of her boyfriend and now fiancé, Paul Norden, and they were separated during the explosion. When Webb saw Norden across in the distance sitting up on a stretcher, she thought he must have been okay. 

“I looked specifically to make sure he had two legs,” said Webb. “To this day, I would tell you I thought he had them both.” 

Norden was next to his brother, whom Webb also had a close relationship with, and stared at him aghast. It was clear Norden’s brother had lost his leg in the bombing.   

“I was in complete shock, and my heart just sank,” said Webb. “I couldn’t believe what I saw. I remember the look on his face. It was something I will never forget, because I knew him so well, and it was heartbreaking to see that.” 

Webb was transported to Tufts Medical Center and brought into surgery. While Webb was able to keep both of her legs, when she woke up learned a devastating reality. 

Her mom articulated that Norden, the love of her life, had lost his leg. 

“I was in a complete state of shock,” said Webb. “I was so sure that he had his leg. My heart was completely shattered.” 

“I knew nothing about amputations, so it was really tough to process.” 

Photo provided by Jacqui Webb

After a strenuous stretch in the ICU in a coma fighting to survive severe injuries, Norden persevered. While Webb and Norden went through significant life changing trauma, they were grateful to have each other and for all the healthcare and first responder heroes that supported them in the process. 

“What a 180 it was that initially you have a stranger wanting to cause death and destruction to you,” said Webb. “But then, you’re in the hands of these doctors and nurses that are strangers that are literally trying to save your life.” 

The strangers providing meaningful help extended beyond the healthcare workers and the first responders. As Webb and Norden now learn how to adapt to an amputee lifestyle, they consistently feel the backing of the city of Boston. 

“We were so overwhelmed with support, encouragement, kind words and gestures from the hospital workers, strangers, our family and friends that we felt a profound sense of gratitude,” said Webb. 

“If I look back, that’s probably the one thing that I take away from that time that I want to live my life with. It’s just how deeply this city of Boston and community cared about us. That’s what I think kind of pushes us through even today.” 

Even present day, Webb recalls regular instances of strangers offering to buy her and her fiancé coffee or pay for their bill at Target. 

To Webb, that is what embodies the spirit of ‘Boston Strong.’ 

“What we went through was horrific, but we wish that everyone could experience that aftermath of that city coming together in the overwhelming support and encouragement from the city and these acts of kindness from strangers to get you through that time. 

It’s been almost 10 years at this point. The Boston Strong mentality is so inspiring and I think we will carry it through the rest of our lives.” 

Webb’s love of philanthropy was ignited coming out of the horrific events. The Greg Hill Foundation came to Webb and Norden’s aid two days after the bombs detonated in 2013, offering immediate financial aid. As a result, Webb joined the Greg Hill Foundation and now is on the Board of Directors. 

Photo provided by Jacqui Webb

As their altruistic acts expanded, Webb and Norden co-founded their own charity – the Webb Norden Foundation – in honor of their young daughter. Their charitable organization supports children and young adults who have been involved in a traumatic event through funding and resources. 

“Hopefully we can show our daughter what ‘Boston Strong’ is about because it really was incredible to witness that firsthand.” 

MEB KEFLEZIGHI – 2014 Boston Marathon Winner as first American to win in 30 years 

“I HOPE to be healthy enough to win it for the people.” 

These were the closing remarks of running champion, Meb Keflezighi, to ESPN reporter Bonnie Ford after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, when he was asked about if he was planning to run the following year.  

Image by Moose Peterson

At the time as an Olympic silver medalist and the 2009 New York City Marathon winner, Keflezighi was unfortunately sidelined for the 2013 Boston Marathon due to an injury. However, he came to the race for sponsorship reasons and to cheer on other runners who were striving to achieve their Boylston Street moment, and left the finish line area only five minutes prior to the horrific explosions. 

After tragedy struck, Keflezighi dedicated the next year to achieving one goal: Winning the 2014 Boston Marathon. For America. For Boston. 

The odds were less than one percent.  

When the 2014 Boston Marathon took place on April 21, Keflezighi was two weeks away from his 39th birthday, and ranked as the 15th fastest runner competing in the Men’s Elite category.   

But champions defy odds.  

Keflezighi was determined to finish first to give both Boston and America the victory they were longing for, and use the devastating events the year prior to carry him to the finish line. 

On Keflezighi’s bib, he wrote the victim’s names who lost their lives in the bombings for inspiration while running – including Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, as well as Sean Collier – the policeman who was shot and killed in a confrontation with the attackers days after the bombings.  

With the emotionally invested city, when rubber met the pavement for Keflezighi it was a once in a lifetime atmosphere – standing out from every other race he had competed.   

Image Credit: Charles Krupa/Associated Press

“I’ve never experienced a race with a crowd like that,” expressed Keflezighi. “Not only [the cheers] when I was winning, but everywhere.” 

“When I went to Boston College, people were doing the wave like at a football or soccer game. They were doing that, and chanting ‘USA, USA!’ I was chanting ‘USA.’” 

As Keflezighi fed off the crowd’s energy to summon strength for a final finish line push, he took in the moment.  

“The sounds on Hereford and Boylton were amazing,” said Keflezighi. “It’s coming from one inside of the area going to the outside of the area, which is incredibly electrifying. Knowing the bombing happened and hearing USA chants, [it was clear] the crowd loved it. For me, it was a thrill of a lifetime. It can never be replicated, so I tried to soak it in.”  

Image Credit: Charles Krupa/Associated Press

As Keflezighi increased his speed and strides, he proudly finished in 2:08:37 – simultaneously giving Boston and our country the win it needed and becoming the first American man to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years. He also claimed the title as the only runner to have won the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, and an Olympic medal.  

Upon finishing, Keflezighi kissed the ground three times, engaged with the crowd, and cried tears of joy. 

“The emotion was high,” said Keflezighi. “It was something of magnetism. Magnitude of that for the people, for my career, and for the people of Boston, the United States, and the running community.” 

Keflezighi noticed a distinct post-race tone after his infamous victory. Instead of the typical congratulatory messages he would encounter following a race, Boston expressed a true sentiment of gratitude.  

“[My win] was huge not only for me for my career, but for the United States and especially for the Bostonians,” said Keflezighi. “Bostonians didn’t say congratulations, they said thank you.”  

“It was a way to help in a small way to help the healing of the city.” 

Over the coming years, Keflezighi maintained relationships with the Boston Marathon bombing victims families, and became particularly close with the Richard family.  

The night prior to Keflezighi winning in 2014, he originally met the Richard family at a charity event. Keflezighi gave them a hug, offered his prayers, and said if he could ever do anything for them to let him know.  

The Richard family kept in touch and took Keflezighi up on his offer in 2018, asking him to run with their Martin Richard Foundation on Team MR8 – which honors their 8-year-old Martin who tragically passed away too soon as a result of the bombings.   

At 42, Keflezighi laced up his sneakers for a poetic finish to his 26th marathon.  

“I’m willing to help [the Richard family] in any way I can. Same with any of the other victims as well,” said Keflezighi. “If they reach out I’d be more than happy to do anything for them.”   

Henry Richard is Martin’s older brother – who was 10 years-old-at the time of the 2013 bombings. 

In 2022, Henry Richard ran Boston for the very first time in Martin’s honor with Team MR8. When the Richard family reached out to Keflezighi to share the good news, Keflezighi said if no one has been designated to put the medal around Henry’s neck at the finish, he would be elated to do so.   

Photo provided by Meb Keflezighi

“[Our relationship] has been ongoing,” said Keflezighi. “When [Henry] finished last year, it was a great honor to be there and then he put a medal around his neck.” 

While his triumphant 2014 victory will go down as the most emotional and memorable Boston Marathon win in history, Keflezighi is defined by more than his time wearing his gold-plated olive branch.  

It’s his resilience, determination, selflessness, and compassion that all embody the true spirit of Boston Strong.  

DAVE WEDGE- Renowned Journalist and Author 

AS an author, journalist, podcast host and award-winning former reporter for the Boston Herald, Dave Wedge is an extremely reputable and distinguished storyteller.  

Ten years ago, Wedge was working as the City Hall Bureau Chief. The Boston Marathon historically is a quiet day since the City Hall is closed, however, it was not the case in 2013. 

Photo provided by Dave Wedge

As Wedge was driving he saw huge, thick clouds of smoke up in the sky, and he headed towards the JFK Library to survey the scene.   

Upset runners wrapped in tinfoil were in the streets, nearby spectators were scared and confused, and barricades were overturned all over the place. Boston’s celebratory finish line had become a crime scene after two booming explosions.   

“They had the area cordoned off,” said Wedge. “I saw massive blood in the streets. It was unmistakable. You couldn’t miss it. There were a lot of cops down there, and the guys in white suits looking for evidence.”   

As more questions than answers rumbled through Boston’s streets, Wedge was telling the facts and stories over the coming days with press conferences and distinguished politicians.   

Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino was set to speak in front of an esteemed group of leaders and politicians during a press conference, with President Barack Obama and Governor Deval Patrick present. Menino was in a wheelchair at the time for a broken leg, however, what wasn’t public knowledge then is that he was suffering from cancer.   

As Boston was in the process of standing up for the city in search of the terrorists who detonate the bombs, Mayor Menino physically stood out of his wheelchair for his speech.   

“I remember seeing his handler gasp that he was up out of his wheelchair because he was so frail,” said Wedge. “But he stood up there and that day he was the best speaker of them all.   

“It was very symbolic of standing up to fight for our city. Whether you like his politics or not, that day, Mayor Menino was a great leader for the city of Boston and it’s something I’ll always remember.   

Photo provided by Dave Wedge

Wedge was constantly working as Boston was on a mission to capture the terrorists who set off the bombs. As Wedge got home that evening to help his wife take care of their newborn, he turned on the TV and immediately went back out into the field in Watertown where there were shootings taking place.  

“It was just a very chaotic scene,” said Wedge. “I ended up staying there through the night and reporting from there. My car actually got cordoned into the crime scene so I couldn’t have left if I wanted to. My car was inside the police tape.”  

“I was out there in Watertown Square when all the police and firefighters were leaving that scene where they captured the kid and they had them in custody. Mayor Menino came over the radio and said something like great job guys, great job.”  

After physically seeing all of the Boston Marathon events unfold first hand, Wedge knew that Boston’s story needed to be told, and it was necessary that it was told right. Wedge partnered with veteran journalist Casey Sherman to tell the story of a lifetime, Boston Strong.   

Photo provided by Dave Wedge

“We care about the people of Boston that experienced this and survived it and how they rebuilt their lives after this horrible tragedy, like nothing Boston had ever seen,” said Wedge. “[The book] basically goes from the day of the bombing to the first anniversary and we did that because we wanted to follow these people as they rebuilt their lives.”  

As Wedge and Sherman worked diligently to tell truthful and tasteful accounts of the survivors’ stories, they embedded themselves with many of them – earning their respect and friendship.  

Eventually, Boston Strong’s novel success sparked interest in being made into a movie by CBS Films directed by Pete Berg with Mark Wahlberg, Patriots Day 

“[Having Wahlberg involved] brings the project instant credibility globally,” said Wedge. “Mark is a big box office business name and he fills seats around the world. 

“I got a good sense of how he works. He’s very committed to what he does and he’s very intense. I found him to be very caring about the project.”  

With the strong relationships he’s forged with survivors as he followed them on their recovery journeys, Wedge went to see the premier of Patriots Day with a handful of them. They all found it tastefully portrayed with the positives they were able to take out of a horrific day. 

“You have to try to find the silver lining, you have to try to find the good that comes out of horrible situations and there always is,” said Wedge. 

“That’s the legacy of the marathon bombings: we are Boston Strong and we’ve persevered. We’re resilient and we’ve rebuilt and the city didn’t miss a beat. We’ve mourned our losses, but we continue to carry this spirit on and we continue to try to do great things and protect one another and build a better society.” 

ERIC VENTRY – 2013 and 2014 Marathon Finisher 

AS a top 1,000 finisher in the 2013 Boston Marathon finishing 2:51:35, competitor Eric Ventry had successfully crossed the finish line before the bombs exploded. 

Photo provided by Eric Ventry

“I was supposed to be at the finish line longer to meet up with my former roommate at UCLA, Meb Keflezighi, ” said Ventry. “I’m very lucky that we didn’t meet up because that would have changed things.” 

Ventry was far enough away when the blasts hit that he wasn’t impacted. He was back at his hotel when the news broke. 

“Talk about shock,” said Ventry. “Phones were ringing with people calling to check on me and the networks were overloading. It went into complete chaos. We were hunkered down in the hotel. I remember these poor employees were stuck, and some of them hadn’t heard from their families.  

“We were hearing that there could be terrorists running around all of Boston. It was very surreal.”  

Following the ensued chaos leading up to the terrorists being captured, Ventry was inspired by Boston’s show of unity in the face of tragedy. Ventry knew that he had to return to race the following year to stand alongside the city and contribute to its triumph overcoming the horrific events. 

“It was so important to me coming back to run in 2014,” said Ventry. “It was a different type of race experience, but such a rewarding one.” 

The anticipation to run in 2014 was at an all-time high, and the race was set up with a new level of security. 

“On my way to the start line I passed by snipers on top of buildings,” said Ventry. “These preventative measures were obviously there to help.” 

Photo provided by Eric Ventry

Looking ahead to 2023, Ventry is unfortunately not racing in the Boston Marathon. However, he appreciates the opportunity to reflect on the tragedy and unparalleled camaraderie from the decade prior. 

“It definitely feels like a long time ago, but when I have a chance to kind of step back and think about it there are a lot of vivid memories,” said Ventry. 

“My contribution this year will be to watch it, and to be part of the fan base. To me, being involved in that way every year is still important.” 

COURTNEY DWYER – First time Boston Marathon Racer in 2023 

COURTNEY Dwyer fell in love with Boston the moment she stepped foot into the city. As a Boston College alumna, Marathon Monday in her eyes has always been one of the most exciting days of the year. 

Photo provided by Courtney Dwyer

Cheering as a student greeting runners after Heartbreak Hill was a core college memory. 

As the 2023 Boston Marathon approaches, Courtney flips the narrative, as now it is her turn to wear a bib as she will run by her alma mater.   

“In my heart of hearts, I always knew that I wanted to run the Boston Marathon. This being the 10-year anniversary [of the Boston Marathon bombings] felt like the perfect opportunity,” said Dwyer. 

While her first-ever marathon will be a major feat, Courtney will be running for two causes that are extremely meaningful – The Greg Hill Foundation and The Webb-Norden Foundation.   

“One of my really good friends here is Jacqui Webb, who was injured as well as her fiancé as well as her fiancé’s brother,” said Dwyer. “It felt like a perfect opportunity to use all my resources, strengths, energy, and passion to put everything I have towards this marathon.”  

Webb was one of Courtney’s early friends when she originally moved to Boston. They worked together through their charity endeavors at the Greg Hill Foundation, and now Dwyer is the first-ever person to simultaneously run for the Webb-Norden Foundation.  

Photo provided by Courtney Dwyer

“The 10-year anniversary is going to be such a special day,” said Dwyer. “I truly feel honored that I’m able to have a strong, healthy mind and body, and opportunity to give back.”  

As Dwyer embarks on this special journey, another aspect that fuels her determination is her love for Boston. 

“We were tested and shook to our core, and it was amazing to see how resilient and how strong the community came together to rally together to get through this horrific event,” said Dwyer.  

“There’s nothing bigger than being able to do something that’s so much bigger for yourself.” 

KAITLYN MCDONOUGH – Georgia Native Racing the 2023 Marathon 

ORIGINALLY from ‘The Peach State’ of Georgia, Kaitlyn McDonough would enjoy Marathon Mondays throughout her youth outside of Boston. As the daughter of a military father, McDonough’s family moved around a lot when she was younger, but even amongst the relocations one thing always remained constant in her life: running.

“Running has always been a big part of my life,” said McDonough. “When it comes to the Boston Marathon, it’s a huge event and you really see the community come together. It’s strangers supporting strangers, which is really beautiful to see.” 

Photo provided by Kaitlyn McDonough

As a long-time marathon spectator, McDonough dreamed of one day running the Boston Marathon. However, when tragedy struck in 2013, it further cemented her determination to do so. 

“When the bombings happened, you really saw how something so tragic led to such a strong force of community through the ‘Boston Strong’ element,” said McDonough. “Literally people were giving each other the shirts off their backs.” 

“I knew then I had to run this race one day. To have the opportunity to run it on the 10-year anniversary is an honor that I will be forever thankful and grateful for.” 

An established presence in Boston’s fitness community as the Founder & CEO of FIFTH wellness and a Reebok Athletic Trainer, McDonough seized this opportunity and switched perspectives from training someone else, to now running herself. 

Photo provided by Kaitlyn McDonough

“I always find it easier to help others than to help myself,” said McDonough. “When you’re helping somebody else, it comes so easily, but when it comes to yourself, you’re trying to take the advice that you always give to others.” 

Luckily, McDonough too is running for The Greg Hill Foundation, which responds to immediate requests for assistance to improve the lives of local families touched by tragedy – just as they did for so many families during the tragic events of 2013. 

“To me, ‘Boston Strong’ means the ultimate community. It embodies individuals coming together solely because it’s the right thing to do – no matter what the cause is. 

“With Boston strong, everyone puts their shit to the side to do what’s best for others.” 

As she counts down the days until April 17, 2023 for the 127th running of the Marathon, Kaitlyn carries this sentiment with her every step of the way. 

HANNAH CREIGHTON – 4x Boston Qualifier who raced in 2013, and will again in 2023 

AS a Boston College student in 2013, Hannah Creighton was elated to run the Boston Marathon for the very first time. 

After months of rigorous training, the day finally came. With family present to support her, a surprise appearance from her mom, the echoing cheers near Heartbreak Hill approaching Boston College, Creighton was euphoric while racing towards Boylston Street. 

Photo provided by Hannah Creighton

Until Mile 25 when the tune of the race drastically changed. 

“When I was stopped at mile 25.5 the day instantly turned somber,” said Creighton. “On my run towards the city there were deafening cheers, but during the walk back to Boston College the streets were almost deserted, and the only sounds were sirens.” 

As the manhunt ensued in the coming days for the terrorists, Boston College locked down the entire campus. Students were escorted to dining halls, their dorm rooms, and no individual trips across campus were permitted.  

The school’s first priority was keeping everyone safe – its own version of Boston Strong. 

“Boston Strong means being resilient, protecting the people you love and standing up for people with different backgrounds,” said Creighton. “You don’t have to be a Boston native to be impacted by Boston Strong.” 

Photo provided by Hannah Creighton

“Seeing the city come together in 2013 made me proud and was when I finally declared myself a Bostonian. I have lived here now for over 10 years and being able to participate in the race as a local is my proudest accomplishment.” 

While Hannah’s running resume is lengthy -her feats running World Major Marathons across the globe- the 10-year anniversary of the bombings holds a meaningful place in her heart as she looks forward to crossing the finishing line reflecting on that day a decade prior. 

Photo provided by Hannah Creighton

“Boston to me is special because of how resilient the city is considering its diversity,” said Creighton. “People of all backgrounds come together every year to support runners from around the world. 

“[The] 2023 Boston Marathon will be a chance for me to celebrate, stop along the way to thank volunteers, take pictures with friends, and hug my family. As the 2013 tragedy proves, life is short and to have people who support you unconditionally is the greatest treat in life.”


MOLLIE MCLAUGHLIN – 2013 Runner x Born and raised Bostonian 

FOR former Boston College nursing student and now healthcare professional, Mollie McLaughlin set out to run her first-ever marathon with eagerness and enthusiasm. 

Photo provided by Mollie McLaughlin

Proudly conquering the first 80% of the marathon, McLaughlin could clearly envision herself finally crossing the finish line after months of training. She passed her headphones off to friends when she reached Mile 21, knowing that the crowd would carry her the remainder of the race. 

As McLaughlin approached Mile 25, puzzlement washed over her face.  

“A stranger told me I should start running in the opposite direction and “get out of here” and there had been a bombing at the finish line,” said McLaughlin.  

“I was in absolute disbelief. When he repeated “get out of here,” that’s when it started hitting me and I began to panic.” 

McLaughlin immediately ran in the opposite direction with eerily silent streets as she desperately searched for a phone to inform her family she was unharmed.   

Photo provided by Mollie McLaughlin

“Thank God I stopped in Newton for a bathroom break,” she said. “Otherwise, I would have been there at the finish line.”  

When McLaughlin returned home, the severity of the day truly hit her.  

“I was in deep and utter shock until I got home to my parents house,” she reflected. “I got in the shower and just cried. I cried tears of sadness for those who were injured and for the family and friends that had lost loved ones, tears of joy to be safely home with my parents, and tears of frustration for not finishing.”  

As a nurse, McLaughlin knew that the finish line scene required first responders to come together in a way Boston had never seen before.  

“The first responders were miracle workers that day,” said McLaughlin. “Their speed and efficiency of arriving at the scene, splitting up the hospital burden, and triaging so quickly was unbelievable.”   

Similarly, the marathon spectators also rallied to aid all those injured. 

“The people in the crowd became first responders tying tourniquets and assisting in any way they could,” said McLaughlin.  

“Many of my nursing classmates cared for survivors the following weeks and our professors continued to highlight the importance of triage and disaster response.”  

“I haven’t told many people this, but this is actually what drove me to become a burn/trauma ICU nurse at Brigham and Women’s Hospital,” said McLaughlin. “Many of my current coworkers and friends were heroes that day, and they inspired me to continue to push until I achieved my goal of helping those suffering severe trauma/injuries due to the unforeseeable.” 

Photo provided by Mollie McLaughlin

McLaughlin has carried her passion to help people and the ‘Boston Strong’ mindset with her every day since. 

“I remember thinking in 2013 ‘how are we going to bounce back?” said McLaughlin. “Let me tell you the city surprised me more than ever.  

“Boston Strong to me is the energy of the people that live here. Bostonians are strong, resilient, and powerful people that will do anything for this city and the people that live in it.”  

Ten years later, McLaughlin has set a goal to finally cross the Boston Marathon finish line and finish what she started in 2013. 

“I plan to finally run the last 1.2 miles this year and finally cross that finish line for those who were affected in any way that day and for our city,” said McLaughlin. 

McLaughlin is running for the Boston Fire Department Fire Relief Fund this year, and will finally cross the finish line in an emotional full-circle moment ten years following the horrific bombings.  

Photo provided by Mollie McLaughlin


WHILE some see tragedy and sprint in the opposite direction, the city of Boston is different. 

Boston rises to the occasion, confronts disaster, helps those in need, and evolves from the events to emerge stronger. 

On April 17, 2023, the Boston Marathon will be run for the 127th time and will mark the 10th anniversary of the tragic 2013 bombing of the Marathon.   

Image via DreamsTime.com

The past decade has continued to showcase the power of the ‘Boston Strong’ mantra.  

Marathon runners and survivors from 2013 draw strength from their personal experiences by looking for the good and looking toward the future – overcoming their challenges and truly setting an example for all of us.  

With the people of Boston continuing to power the city’s character, the 2023 Boston Marathon will be a remembrance of the devastation, and simultaneously a demonstration of the city’s past and present resilience.  

We are Boston. We are BOSTON STRONG. 

Publisher’s Note: BostonMan Magazine would like to give Elizabeth Pehota a standing ovation for compiling this powerful, emotional, and beautiful feature. This was not an easy story to weave together, and Elizabeth did it in such a manner that truly captured the spirit of Boston Strong.
Elizabeth  is a fashion and lifestyle influencer (@pehota) as well as a 5x marathoner and fitness expert (@healthy_cheers).
As an accomplished runner, Elizabeth will race her third Boston Marathon in 2023, and second as a Boston Qualifier. This year, Elizabeth is fundraising for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which is a cause very near to her heart. MS is a chronic neurological disease that disrupts the flow of information between the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves — resulting in unpredictable symptoms including numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness and/or paralysis.
There is no cure for MS, but Elizabeth aims to change this narrative by raising money to find one. You can donate to her fundraising page here.