More than 30,000 participants were in the 127th Boston Marathon on Monday, almost every one of them of the two-legged variety. But one four-legged racer, from Shelter Island, was spotted at the finish line.
Dr. Frank Adipietro was closing in on completing his 15th Boston when he spotted Maggie, the family’s golden retriever behind a barrier on a leash held by his wife, Mary Ellen.
“Because of security since the bombing at the 2013 race, the Boston Police haven’t allowed any leeway like they used to for family or friends to join you for the last stretch,” Dr. Adipietro said. But as he went over to say hello to Mary Ellen and give Maggie a pat on the head, a cop suddenly lifted the dog over the barrier and handed the leash to him.
“For the last 150-200 meters, Maggie and I finished together,” he said, with spectators pointing to the sight, smiling, laughing and taking photos.
It was emblematic of the day, when joy in the moment mixed with memories of the horrific terrorist attack 10 years ago, which killed three and injured 281. That day was remembered in several public ceremonies in Boston.“It was on everyone’s mind all weekend,” Dr. Adipietro said.
He and Mary Ellen knew a person who had to have a leg amputated. “And I think of the one child who was killed,” he said. But also on everyones mind is Boston’s “resiliency,” he added, that the spirit and energy of a city he loves shone brightly on a day of cool mist and light showers.
He noted that Marathon Day is a public holiday in Massachusetts, so schools and offices are closed and the turnout for the race is “phenomenal,” he said.
The Red Sox played a morning game, with the first pitch at 11 a.m., so fans could leave the stadium and watch the racers passing Fenway Park.
Dr. Adipietro and his family lived in Boston for a while, and the city is close to their hearts. “I did a residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and first ran the marathon then,”he said.
He’s always been part of a team from the Massachusetts State Police, who run for the charity Cops For Kids with Cancer. His friend, State Police Lt. Bill Coulter, got him involved. Lt. Coulter died of cancer in 2019, and is always in Dr. Adipietro’s thoughts as he runs.
On Monday, coming out of a short tunnel and making a sharp right on to Boylston Street, half a mile to the finish, Dr. Adipietro ran into a memory of a decade ago.
The runners he was with then were suddenly blocked by a phalanx of Boston police officers. The cops were saying the runners couldn’t continue, their race was over, a bomb had gone off ahead. In the confusion, with athletes eager to finish, no one could quite understand what was going on.
Runners, so close to breaking the tape, were arguing. “But you don’t argue too long with a Boston cop,” Dr. Adipietro said.
He begged to be let through, telling the officers his wife was ahead, but was refused in no uncertain terms. He implored one officer to borrow his cellphone and the cop agreed. He dialed his wife, but got no signal.
Knowing the city, he ran down a side street and then cut up a narrow street through the chaos of fleeing people, running parallel to Boylston Street toward the finish line.
All streets going toward the finish were blocked, but Dr. Adipietro finally found a way to cut over a few blocks beyond the VIP and press areas.
The drill before runners start the marathon is to put all their belongings in bags that are then shuttled by bus to the finish where they claim them after the race has been run.
In the confusion of noise and sights of carnage, Dr. Adipietro fought his way through and found his bus, but the police officers tried to turn him away. “They told me it was a crime scene and no one was being given bags,” he said. “I was desperate. I begged one officer, begged him to let me have my phone, they could keep everything else.”
The officer took pity. “At the top of the screen, where the most recent texts are listed was one from a friend who said he’d spoken to Mary Ellen and she was all right,” he said.
She had been in the front row of the section when the first bomb went off. Directly in front of her, less than 20 feet away, a woman was lying with both legs blown off. She wasn’t the only double amputee or other victims of horrific injuries that Ms. Adipietro witnessed.
Trained as a nurse, she organized some of the children, comforted them and shepherded them away, urging people not to panic, which for some in the first few minutes after the blasts was impossible.
Her thoughts were for her husband. She didn’t know if he was safe, or injured, or worse.
It took nearly half an hour for Dr. Adipietro to walk the short blocks to their hotel through crowds of EMTs, police, other security officers and shell-shocked pedestrians.
But Ms. Adipietro was in their room, a bit shook up, and they were reunited.
A NEW DAY
On Tuesday this week, the day after the race, Dr. Adipietro admitted “he felt a little sore,” but proud he finished, as he has every marathon he’s run. “The energy was palpable, and the spirit of the city was remarkable,” he said. “It was bitter sweet in a way, because we have memories that we can never forget, and hope it never happens again.”
But the gift given by the crowds cheering for him and his fellow athletes was still with him. “And that’s also something I’ll never forget.”