On Monday, 27,500 runners from across America and the world converged in Boston for the 120th running of the Boston Marathon.
For one former Sedalia resident, Stacey Ragar Kitchens, the chance to compete in the race was one she will not forget for both the physical experience of running the race but also for the chance to personally meet and talk to others who lived through the horror of the terrorist attack three years ago at the race.
“I have to say it a very tough race and I really didn’t do as well as I would have liked,” Kitchens said by phone from Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon. “I am really grateful though that I had the chance to run it though.
“I think for most runners the dream is to run the Boston Marathon or the New York City Marathon — I had that chance on Tuesday,” Kitchens added. “I was running with Olympic athletes and some of the best runners in the world so it was an experience I’ll never forget.”
Thirty thousand runners qualified for the 26.1-mile race that followed the same course that the race has for most of its history.
The race passes through six cities in Massachusetts, ending at the finish line in front of the Boston Public Library.
It was at the finish line that two pressure cooker bombs were detonated killing three and injuring 264 others in 2013.
“I think one of the things that struck me about the race was how everyone in every community loves the race and gets excited about it,” Kitchens said. “That was such a neat experience just to witness but there was a lot of security everywhere.
“In a race that covers that much space there is no way to completely close it off but there were barricades everywhere and we needed our IDs to get into the village where the competitors stayed.”
This was Kitchen’s first time to run at Boston and she commented on how the actions of three years ago were still in evidence.
“(The bombing attack) was such a terrible thing and is so hard to imagine what it was like to be there,” Kitchens said. “I spoke to others who were there during the bombing because I wanted to learn from their experiences.”
Kitchens said one of the runners she spoke to was unaware the attack had occurred because they completed the course before the bombing.
“I talked to some runners who were actually at the finish line and were getting their medals when the explosions happened,” Kitchens said. “They all said it sounded like fireworks were going off all around them and that there was confusion everywhere.”
This year’s marathon saw none of the factors the runners faced in 2013 but there were some conditions that made the race physically demanding, according to Kitchens.
“I think everyone had a lot of trouble this year with the race especially because of the heat,” Kitchens said. “I know a lot of runners had problems with cramping in their legs and I did too.
“I spent a lot of time the day before walking around and exploring Boston and so I was somewhat fatigued to start,” she added. “The race has a downhill start and it seems like there are a lot of stretches like that early on, I really didn’t expect to have that much trouble early on.”
Kitchens, who is in her early 50s, completed the race in four hours, 53 minutes and some seconds, she said.
“It’s my understanding that unless you are given a charity exemption, everyone needs to qualify to run in the marathon,” Kitchens said. “This year’s time was under four hours to qualify and I made it with two and a half minutes to spare.”
Kitchens said she qualified at a race in Ft. Worth, Texas, last year and decided to “give Boston a shot this year.”
“I learned a lot at the race this time and I had some wonderful experiences,” Kitchens said. “I started running seriously and competing when I was 30 or so and even after I stopped racing I always kept running.
“I really didn’t even think about qualifying and competing until about five years ago,” she added. “I’m really glad I did this one.”
Kitchens said she has not ruled out running in a future Boston Marathon but for the time being she did not think she would try to qualify for next year’s race.
A 1983 graduate of Smith-Cotton and a 1988 graduate of Central Missouri State University (UCM), Kitchens, who resides in South Haven, Mississippi, said she wanted to focus on her return to college where she is pursuing a master’s degree in dyslexia therapy.
“The marathon was a fun experience and I really tried to enjoy everything and focus on the moment when I was there,” Kitchens said. “I am grateful for the experience.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484