Marathon still an enjoyable experience

ESCANABA – Aside from the tragic events Monday afternoon, the 117th Annual Boston Marathon was a positive experience overall for Kaylyn Bernard, a certified personal trainer at Anytime Fitness in Escanaba.

“It was a wonderful experience up to that point,” she said. “We got a chance to see National Geographics Wicked Tuna’s cast in Glouchester, Mass. on Sunday, and the expo on Saturday (during the packet pick-up) was beautiful. The sad part is I bought my mom (Jayne Szukalowski) a ticket for the post-marathon party, and everybody wasn’t able to attend that (due to the explosions in downtown Boston during the marathon).”

Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia was the overall winner, covering the 26.2-mile course in two hours, 10.22 seconds, just .05 second ahead of Kenya’s Micah Kogo.

Tracy Lokken of Marquette won the men’s age 45-49 division and placed 31st overall at 2:22:27.

Bill Sved of Marquette was clocked in 3:48:21, with Rich Anderson, also of Marquette, at 3:55.

Rita Jeptoo of Kenya earned the women’s title in 2:26:25, with runner-up Meseret Hailu at 2:26:58. Katie Clark of Escanaba finished in 3:54:59.

Bernard, who qualified at 3:31:55 in Seattle in October 2011, was battling an ankle injury and came through the 40-kilometer (25-mile) checkpoint at 4:52:37 on Monday. She was unable to complete the course due to the explosions near the finish line, which killed at least three people and injured more than 130.

“I won’t let that stop me from going back out there,” said Bernard. “It’s unfortunate, but you can’t let that keep you from your dreams and passion. I broke my left arm in a snowboarding injury at Marquette Mountain in 2003 when I was 16 years old. That didn’t stop me from snowboarding either.”

Bernard said she enjoyed the camaraderie among the field of more than 23,000 runners and many thousands of fans who lined the entire course.

“The runners were friendly,” she added. “At the starting line (in Hopkinton, Mass.), I met a married couple from Argentina and they were just the nicest people. The crowds were just so supportive. There were people handing out kleenex, oranges and water (among other things). I just couldn’t believe how many people were on the course. I was talking to other runners and texting my mom. I just wanted to live the moment and embrace the experience. I made it this far, and I was just going to do it. The start was also so well organized. They had wonderful volunteers.”

Heartbreak Hill, a series of hills from Mile 16-21, didn’t pose much of a problem for Bernard.

“That was fine,” she said. “Going up wasn’t the problem, but going down was hard on the ankles. It also felt much warmer than it was (54 degrees). We were all on a runner’s high when we went around that corner (at 25 1/2 miles).

“This really taught me a lesson what running is all about. I think this was an eye-opener. I saw so many other people who were running with injuries. I felt honored to be there.”

Bernard, who was .6 mile away from the finish at the time of the explosions, and Szukalowski are expected to return to Delta County today.

“It was good to be a part of that,” said Bernard. “Nobody is going to forget this day. We were like one big family.”