Local runner gets chance to remember Boston in a different way

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 21, 2014 

Melissa McCreery, Boston Marathon

Runners and walkers take a moment to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, marathoners Arlane Olson, left, Kathy Herndon and Melissa McCreery, right, embrace at the Village Green for a Run/Walk for Boston to honor the victims of the bombing on April 22, 2013 in Bellingham.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

A year ago, Melissa McCreery rounded the corner to Boylston Street, the last stretch of the Boston Marathon.

The Bellingham runner was taking in the moment. She was at the Boston Marathon, "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said.

"You come around this corner and you can see the finish line. It's just amazing. It just took my breath away," McCreery said. "I couldn't believe I was there."

McCreery crossed the finish line. A volunteer raised the race medal above her head.

Before the medal reached her neck, an explosion went off.

The volunteer froze.

"This is not good," he said.

More than 17,000 runners had already crossed the finish line. Another 5,633 had yet to finish and wouldn't get the chance. Three people died and more than 260 were injured when two homemade bombs exploded near the race's finish line.

On Monday, April 21, 36,000 runners will get a chance to create a new ending. McCreery will be one of them.

After the bombs went off last year, McCreery's priority was to find her four friends - one spectator and three runners - who attended with her.

"I didn't know where anybody was," McCreery said. "It was a fear of what might happen next. It was surreal."

After a frantic search, they found each other. The next task was to find their way back to the hotel. Their way in - the subway - was shut down after the bombings.

"I didn't know where to walk," McCreery said.

Her last memory of Boylston Street is a barricaded "scene of devastation" a day after the event.

On Monday, when she comes down the closing stretch, it will be "indescribable," she said.

"The people of Boston are amazing," McCreery said. "It's going to be an incredible celebration and it should be."

Her time last year wasn't her best, but that isn't a priority for this 26.2 miles.

"My goal this year is to be there and soak up every moment and be present," McCreery said. "I want to celebrate at the end."

Seven years ago, McCreery didn't ever think she would run a marathon. She wasn't a particularly athletic kid and swore she would never run.

Life intervened.

"I had kids and found running was a way to spend time with my friends, time to myself," she said.

Over time, running became McCreery's quiet time. It was part of her daily schedule and the one time of day she could put down the computer and cellphone. It was a time she could process what was going on in her head. As a psychologist, she knew the importance of this.

McCreery is the founder of the consulting company TooMuchOnHerPlate.com.

The company describes itself as helping "high-performing women whose busy lifestyles can lead to problems with overload, stress and overeating."

She started training with Bellingham Fit.

"I just decided I was going to sign up with people who had done this before," McCreery said. "I would follow the schedule and do it on faith."

Eventually, McCreery progressed to running marathons.

Monday's Boston Marathon will be McCreery's 11th marathon, and her mental tools will be just as important as the training she has done.

She says after running so many marathons, it's now 90 percent mental.

"The head game can defeat you or help you cross the finish line," McCreery said. "It's really sometimes about telling yourself 'one more mile, one more block.' "

Boylston Street will be that last block on Monday.

"I want to be there to remember what happened," McCreery said. "I want to be part of a different ending."

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