10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING
The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world’s best-known road racing events. It is one of six World Marathon Majors. Today is the 10th Anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing.
What better way to discuss this topic than with a Boston native dietitian and sports nutrition expert who has finished the Boston Marathon herself? Not only does she have training tips to share, but she also has a story. On that day, April 15, 2013, Nicole was a Red Cross Boston Marathon Medical volunteer on the course.
This is a story of perseverance, leadership, trauma turned into triumph, courage, and mindset, but it’s not what you might expect. Before getting the inside scoop on her race day nutrition prep tips, you’ll learn how an unexpected encounter kept Nicole from the Boston Marathon finish line on the day of the bombing and her perspective of what happened one decade ago today.
You’ll learn about the importance of communication, timing, and preparedness. Before you think this story might be sad, although parts of it are, it has a happy ending. Nicole continued to volunteer in 2014 and 2015 and completed her lifelong goal of finishing the Boston Marathon successfully with a medal in 2016.
Who is Nicole Chenard?
Let’s start by helping you get to know Nicole’s various connections to the Boston Marathon, what led up to her successful completion of the world-famous major running race, and her joy in helping others do the same. Nicole Chenard, MS, RD, LDN brings to you today meaningful marathon nutrition tips from her own training and life experience.
Nicole started her private practice Major League Nutrition in 2018 in Boston to help athletes, veterans, active military families and first responders promote health, optimize performance, and reach goals they sometimes didn’t even know they have. She accomplishes this with her clients via in-person and online virtual HIPAA-protected telehealth nutrition and healthy lifestyle coaching.
“I help our nation’s leaders optimize their health & performance with unique, results-driven coaching via technology, accountability & innovation.”
She started competing in road races at age 5 in Needham, MA. Each April, she set up her viewing spot next to the Newton-Wellesley Hospital with her Newton-based cousins and reminded herself of the goal to run the Boston Marathon by the time she turned 26, as they watched the world’s greatest athletes run past them in awe.
At 6:00am Monday morning, April 15th 2013, the 25-year old stood in her white Adidas Boston Marathon Medical Volunteer windbreaker at the cross-section of Commonwealth Avenue and Centre Street in Newton, MA, mile 19.9 of the marathon, helping her medical team set up supplies for the runners.
“I oversaw keeping track of runners who were treated in our tent, and there weren’t that many joining us early on, so I was mostly holding out a large, flat wooden stick with Vaseline on it for the runners who had begun to experience chafing. I also remember taking pride in mixing the Gatorade powder with water in the 10-gallon vats for our tent. Dehydration is the worst that can happen to an endurance runner, *sigh* or so I thought.
I had time to think, and I remember telling myself, ‘You’ve put off running this race for too long. Next year you’ll be 26. It’s time to commit. Someone with artificial legs just ran by you. You have no excuses.’ Right then and there I decided next year I would be running the Boston Marathon. A huge grin spread across my face as I acknowledged the commitment I just made, and an overall feeling of joy and excitement took over me.
Just one hour prior to arriving on scene to set up our station, at around 5:00am, I had excitedly joined the other medical volunteers for the course and finish line at our pre-race meeting venue in West Newton, right by the Mass Pike.
“We don’t have your paperwork,” a volunteer in the entryway told me.
“I don’t understand. I sent it all in before the deadline,” I replied.
“Well, we don’t have it, so you can’t volunteer today,” she responded.
I reluctantly walked over to my sister, a nurse and her wife, a paramedic, who were also volunteering that day, and told them, “I don’t know what happened to my paperwork, but they don’t have it and I can’t volunteer, so I guess I’ll head down to the finish line and watch from there. I’m wicked bummed, but I know how strict they are.”
A TURNING POINT
As I disappointedly gathered my belongings and began heading toward the exit, an eager young female volunteer sprinted up to me. She was huffing and puffing and held out a white volunteer jacket and name tag and said, “We found your paperwork! Go meet with your team! Have a great day!”
Every time I think back to that encounter, my heart grows as I thank God and that enthusiastic volunteer for preventing me from being at the Boston Marathon finish line that day by a miraculous twist of fate.
Just before 3pm that day, as I stood at my spot on Comm Ave, handing out Vaseline, a male and female runner came up to me and asked,
“Hey, what’s going on at the finish line?”
I replied, quizzically, and matter-of-factly, “People are finishing the marathon. There’s some spectators viewing the finishers from bleachers. There’s also some TV crews and reporters.” They looked at me frustrated and said,
“No, no no! We have been listening to the coverage on our phones while running, and there’s been an explosion at the finish line. What’s going on?!?”
At the time, Twitter was my go-to for the latest news, sports, and traffic updates, so I said, “Hold on. Let me check Twitter and see what people are saying.”
I somehow remained calm as I shockingly read the first Tweets that popped up on my feed:
|“There was just an explosion at Copley…seriously. Wtf…”|
|“Two explosions just rocked the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Sirens galore. People running in fear. Wonder what happened.”|
|“Did something just explode… twice in town? @*****”|
I remember seeing the words “Finish Line” “Copley” “Explosion” “Limbs” and “Blood everywhere” as I assuredly told the runners who had approached me, “Why don’t you take a break in our tent while we figure out what’s going on,” and I gestured for them toward the Gatorade and chairs in the medical tent.
We had had extensive sports medicine, communications, and weather training to prepare us for helping any of the 30,000 runners who began their journey with a single step in Hopkinton that morning and needed care.
We were not prepared for a terrorist attack. On our own turf. During the Boston Athletic Association’s most famous tradition. On the most accomplished day of the year.
I walked backward toward the Ham Radio Operators who were on the sidewalk behind the tent. I heard, “Station 19.9, there’s a suspicious black duffle bag 90 yards from your tent. K-9 on alert.”
Then moments later…
“Finish line shut down.”
“Mile 25 shut down.”
“Mile 24 shut down.”
“Mile 23 shut down.”
“Mile 22 shut down.”
“Mile 21 shut down.”
THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING
I observed course police officers and metal barricades coming toward us at all angles, and our station leader looked me in the eye and said, “You need to tell runners to stop running.”
I thought back to September 11, 2001, and how I had wondered on that day, after watching the second World Trade Center Tower collapse, live, on TV, and learned of the plane that hit the south side of the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and then the plane that crashed in a field near Philadelphia, “Could Boston be next? What’s the pattern here?”
If two bombs had gone off on the course, was that it? Or was the entire course lined with bombs, and now there’s no escape, and my parents could lose two of their children today? I looked down, grateful that I had sneakers on. I could run away from the course, but which direction was safe?
I reluctantly, and obediently told runners to stop running. It was my duty to inform them they couldn’t accomplish their dream today. All of their hard work, training, fundraising, competing, everything.
They didn’t all speak English. “How do I tell the non-English speakers to stop running and explain why?” I remember asking myself. “I don’t even know what’s going on. F***” I used hand motions to signal the need to stop, and an explosion, and the French I could conjure for explosions and finish line.
As we stopped the runners, they asked to use our phones because their families were waiting for them at the finish line and they no longer knew where to go or how to find their loved ones. We started to run out of supplies: blankets, strawberries, Gatorade, water, anything we could give the runners.
More and more runners lined up, sweaty, confused, dehydrated, cold, without any way to reach their friends and families, with no plan. I offered my phone as many times as I could before my sister-in-law got called in to work. Off-duty Cambridge paramedics were called in and directed to prepare to backup Boston’s first responders, and we were required to leave the station.
Guilt, fear, worry, confusion, sadness, and anger flowed through our veins that day. Who placed those bombs? Which roads are safe? How are we going to get home? Are there other bombs? How many bombers are there? How could I fulfill the commitment I made today after what just happened?
In the fall of 2013, I decided to volunteer again. I didn’t have it in me to run after what we had all been through in April, but I decided I could help others get through it. In 2014, I chose to be at Medical Station #20, Mile 25.5, right in Kenmore Square, right before the dip on Comm Ave that leads to the right turn onto Hereford St., the last mile.
President Obama had given permission for the City of Boston and the State of Massachusetts to spend as much money as needed to protect all the runners, volunteers, and spectators at the 2014 Boston Marathon. Police officers from New York, Miami, and Los Angeles lined the course, all wearing Boston and Massachusetts uniforms. The bombers had been caught and everyone in Boston and the surrounding towns were on alert. I’ve never felt safer in my life.
After a successful 2014 Boston Marathon, was I ready to run the next year? It takes time to heal. I repeated my medical volunteer work in 2015 at Station #20. After extensive reflecting and discussing my goals and fears with a mental skills coach, and deciding it would be scarier not to try than it would be to try and fail, I committed to running Boston in 2016. I would be 28, so I told myself, that’s 26.2!
I planned a marathon shower for myself and prepped my pre-race meals for the week prior, and day-of, which didn’t include an ounce of pasta! Everything I ate is listed in this video. It was the best day of my life. I had a smile on my face the entire time. I did it, and so can you! Here are my top three tips to fuel your marathon:
top 3 TIPS TO FUEL YOUR MARATHON
1. PREVENT DEHYDRATION BEFORE IT HAPPENS
Marathons are not like any other race because you are running for much longer than you would normally run. Do not drink alcohol the week prior to the race. Alcohol will hinder your performance by contributing to cramping and nutrient depletion including dehydration. What you want to focus on is getting a little extra sodium and sugar at least the few days before the race to help your body hold onto water, help your muscles store glycogen for fuel, and help get the sodium into the cells.
2. CARB LOAD THE RIGHT WAY
Did you ever eat 4 servings of pasta and 6 bread rolls and feel like running? No! Don’t do it! That view of carb loading is outdated and not helpful. Your muscles need REAL nutrients! The night before I ran the Boston Marathon, I ate a salad with arugula, quinoa, goat cheese, nuts and seeds, and had two pieces of millet chia bread with an olive oil spread, I drank two glasses of water and ate raspberries for dessert.
3. NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY
Another point people miss all the time before a big race is don’t try anything new on race day. Don’t try anything new the entire week before your marathon. This race is not a joke! You don’t want to be feeling like you are going to be throwing up your orange slices and Gatorade as soon as you see the fire station at mile 17 and start trekking up the beginning of Heartbreak Hill. You will be forcing your stomach, aka gut, to slosh around for 26.2 miles… be kind to it!
WATCH Nicole’s marathon fueling tips video & more on her youtube channel:
Bonus tips for morning of your marathon in this video here!
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More info on the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings aftermath:
- The initial response to the Boston marathon bombing: lessons learned to prepare for the next disaster.
- Attorney General Announces $8.3 Million to Support Victims of Boston Marathon Bombings.
- Surgeons put planning, preparation, past experience to work in efforts to save Boston Marathon bombing victims
- Public Twitter messages selected using the stems “explod*” and “explos*” in the immediate vicinity of the Boston Marathon finish line from the first 20 minutes after the bombings.
- Boston Marathon Bombings Most Tweeted Sports Event 2013