Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Second chance to cross line at Boston Marathon

Manitobans among those invited back

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Notes are written on running shoes at a memorial near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, one month after the bombing.

CHARLES KRUPA / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Notes are written on running shoes at a memorial near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, one month after the bombing.

Julie Whelen of Winnipeg found out this week she will get another chance to finish the Boston Marathon.

Whelen, one of 41 Manitoba runners in the 2013 Boston Marathon on April 15, had to stop running during the final mile on the course when two bombs exploded at the finish line, killing three people and wounding hundreds.

Whelen is also one of 5,633 people who have been invited back for 2014 and informed in an email from the Boston Athletic Association they have been guaranteed entry.

'Just giving us the guaranteed entry is just fantastic'

-- Winnipegger Julie Whelen

"As soon as I saw that, I said, 'Oh, yeah, I am definitely going back.' I was a block-and-a-half from the finish line. You have to finish. You can't just leave it like that," said Whelen, 45, a Winnipeg veterinarian.

Everyone who had passed the halfway checkpoint at 13.1 miles but did not cross the finish line has been told they will get a registration code in August. They will still have to pay the registration fee, around $200, but won't have to re-qualify by running the required minimum time in another marathon.

"Just giving us the guaranteed entry is just fantastic. They didn't have to do that. It's just really, really nice of them to offer that. Just to give us all closure," Whelen said.

Bob Steinberg of Winnipeg also had to leave the course before he crossed the finish line and has also been offered an entry for next year. He said he has already booked his hotel room for the 2014 Boston Marathon.

"The Boston Athletic Association is acknowledging the feeling that you get when you cross that finish line," Steinberg, a Winnipeg psychiatrist, said. "There were over 5,000 people that didn't have that opportunity and it's an amazing, wonderful thing that they are doing."

At the marathon when the first blast hit, Steinberg said he had just passed a sign that said 0.2 miles to go. His wife, Julie Gold Steinberg, was waiting at the finish line for him but was unharmed.

"The people that were killed and injured are the victims but there were other victims. The people of Boston and the people who were running that race," he said.

On marathon day, Whelen stopped running after the first explosion. She ducked behind a garbage bin after the second explosion and, when there wasn't a third, left the course and headed back to her hotel.

"I knew something really bad was happening there," she said. "Right at the time, you are just too stunned to be afraid. The people around me, we were too far back to be hit by any of the shrapnel but you are just so stunned by everything."

Whelen said people in the running community will keep running and think of those who died and were hurt.

"Even now, little things just bring it back. I was fine, but other people weren't," she said. "It just makes me mad. Whatever you (the bombers) thought you were going to accomplish, you accomplished the total opposite. You just made more people more determined."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 18, 2013 A18

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