After failing to finish one of the world’s most prestigious races last year, the Boston Marathon, due to a deadly terror act, Lincoln County teacher Morgan Turner returned to the 118th annual event this month for a second shot at fulfilling a personal goal and her final marathon.
Last year, the 22-year-old S. Ray Lowder physical education instructor was less than a mile from the finish line when she saw the two bombs explode.
For hours following the shocking episode, she couldn’t find her parents, whom she knew would be waiting for her at the finish line, and had no way of contacting them since her phone had died.
Police later determined that brothers Dzhokhar Anzorovich “Jahar” Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Anzorovich Tsarnaev devised the plan that detonated the two pressure-cooker explosives, which were stored in backpacks.
The attacks killed three and injured more than 150 others.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev later died, but his brother remains in custody.
Turner said she left for the northern port city on April 20, the day before the big race, and returned home on Thursday, carrying with her a confidence and sense of achievement she never felt during last year’s tragedy.
“It’s a hard feeling to describe,” she said. “‘Happy,’ ‘thankful,’ ‘complete,’ ‘relieved,’ ‘exhausted’ were just a few of the emotions swirling through my head (this time),” she said. “I felt like I played a small part in healing the city and a large part in healing myself from the effects of last year.”
By her side at this month’s race were her husband, uncle and father.
A Western Carolina University graduate and former top cross-country runner for the Wildcats’ college team and Lincolnton High School Lady Wolves, Turner completed the trek in 4 hours and 23 minutes.
She promised herself that one of her primary goals this year would include not stopping.
“I also wanted to get to that finish line as quickly as I could,” she said.
However, stopping to take a bathroom break just before the final mile last April potentially saved the Lincolnton native’s life.
A week before heading back to Boston, Turner “felt the nervousness creep in,” she said, and made sure to keep her phone charged the day of the race.
In addition to fears about reliving last year’s trauma at the onset of the race, she worried about the weaker condition of her hips and knees.
Ironically, the only feeling she had at the start of the 26.2-mile competition was peace.
“Once I started the race, it was the first time I had felt as close to being at peace about the marathon since the bombings occurred,” she said.
Turner credited the support of fans, the exhilarating race atmosphere, the large-sized crowd of runners and the thousands of law enforcement officers surrounding the event — including helicopters circling overhead, she said — with putting her at ease.
She even passed a number of survivors with prosthetic limbs and bibs on their backs denoting their brave return.
“That’s when chills went through my body,” she said, “and tears of thankfulness welled up in my eyes and…reminded me how important the race is.”
Race officials even set up encouraging signs along the route, one of which included a heart, the same symbol engraved on race winners’ medals, complete with the word “Boston” written inside the shape, Turner said.
“This heart represented that, in our hearts, we remembered the tragedy,” she noted.
Yet, runners were still unable to complete the race without reminiscing about the attacks after a bomb hoax occurred at this year’s site, confusing Turner.
“At first, I thought it was the footage or news from last year,” she said. “It bothered me that someone would do this as a prank when they knew what occurred last year. Obviously, it was meant to incite fear, which is why I tried to ignore it.”
She believed that her participation and the race completion of thousands of other runners this year illustrated to the world the true strength of “The City on a Hill” and its people.
“I knew that crossing the finish line,” Turner said,” showed the world that we were not afraid to come back to a finish line that last year represented pain.”
She noted how the competitors not only reclaimed the race for themselves but also for Boston and for “all that is good in the world.”
In addition to racing, Turner, along with her family, stayed two days after the marathon to tour the city and “stuff” as much Boston culture and food into their trip as possible, she said.
While she has no plans to stop running — her favorite sport and one in which she’s trained since middle school — she’s decided to end her participation in marathons.
“Unless something crazy happens,” Turner said, “I am never running that far ever again. I am taking a break (from) training for anything for a very long time. 5K and YMCA classes are in my future.”