NORWALK, Conn. – Luck kept Norwalk’s James and Shannon Whipple and their two young daughters out of harm’s way at last year’s Boston Marathon.
They are returning this year without fear. But they are well aware of how fortunate they are that they were blocks away from the finish line last year when bombs planted by terrorists killed three people, injured scores of others and forever changed the landscape of big-city marathons.
“It finally sunk in when we got home,’’ James said. “We sat down and watched the news and realized how lucky we were. There were so many circumstances that could have played out differently.”
The unlikely combination of beer and illness kept the Whipple family and their girls, Mia and Paige, a safe distance from the mayhem at the finish line.
James ran last year’s Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds. He crossed the finish line about 45 minutes before the bombs exploded.
“I wanted to have the Sam Adams 26.2-mile beer,’’ James remembered about last year’s finish. “The day before I noticed Joe’s American Bar & Grill, right near the finish line. But they didn’t have the beer. I said to Shannon, 'Let’s find out who has it and go from there.'”
The Whipples chose another restaurant for James’ post-race celebration. “They had just taken our drink order when we noticed the commotion,’’ Shannon said. “We were in a back room. We tried to keep the kids sheltered and we had to stay there for a while. I was so shocked, but I was also fearful. Who knew if there were other bombs? I just wanted to get out of there.”
Shannon planned to qualify and run last year’s Boston Marathon. In 2012, her training for the Chicago Marathon was going smoothly heading into the October race.
But about a week beforehand, she developed flu-like symptoms. She missed qualifying for Boston by about 10 minutes and figures she would have easily met the qualifying standard if she had not gotten sick. If she had qualified, her anticipated finish would have put her near the time window of the bombings.
“In retrospect, if I had qualified the kids probably would have been at the finish line,’’ Shannon said. “You think about those things.”
The Norwalk couple will run this year race with different agendas. James is using it as training run for an 100-mile endurance run in June, and Shannon is rounding back into shape after running the Dopey Challenge at Disney World in January.
Shannon and James realize, however, that they were fortunate to have escaped unharmed last year, and figure this year’s race is going to be an emotional – and safe – 26.2-mile journey.
“I think it’s going to be extremely emotional,’’ James said. “I’m sure there are memories that are going to come back. My mother and father will come and watch the kids. They don’t know any different and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”