It’s been more than a year since the country was rocked by terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon.
For Fallon resident DeVere Karlson, the memories are flooding back as she prepares to run the 118th Boston Marathon on Monday.
Karlson, Churchill County’s chief juvenile probation officer, was about three-tenths of a mile from the second bomb site, when all hell broke loose and a mass of humanity came flooding toward her and other runners. The horde was unleashed after two brothers detonated a pair of bombs, which killed four people and injured more than 260.
Karlson, 56, who is running in her fifth Boston Marathon, said more than 5,000 runners from last year were granted entry to Monday’s race. All told, more than 36,000 runners — 9,000 more than usual — will compete in this year’s edition.
“I think the people of Boston will be out in droves,” Karlson said. “I expect twice as many people out on the course this year. I think it is going to be insane. They are proud of this race.”
Back on the course
Her desire the past several months, though, was to return and run with a purpose unlike any other she has given before. Running partners Kari Lister and Dominique Jones said Karlson struggled with her emotions for months — ranging from giving up running to finally deciding to run for the victims, their families and the city of Boston.
“I was in shock and kind of feeling guilt,” Karlson said of the aftermath. “It took a long time to process. But I’m going back for two reasons: one, is I want to support the people of Boston that just did a wonderful job when that tragedy occurred. Also (secondly), I just want to show that terrorism isn’t going to work. We’re going to go back in even larger numbers and show that this won’t stop us.”
After last year’s bombings, Karlson returned to her hotel, but was quickly evacuated by authorities because it was in the blast zone. From there, Karlson returned to the hotel, then moved to Logan International Airport.
As for security, Karlson said she is not worried about another possible attack. On Tuesday, a Massachusetts man was arrested after dropping a backpack near the finish line of the marathon, according to USA Today.
Another bag was found, although authorities did not say who may have owned the backpack, the newspaper reported. The man was charged with possession of a hoax device.
“The security will be tight and there will be some limitations, and I have no problem with that,” Karlson said.
A proud runner
As for the atmosphere, Karlson said Boston is second to none. The course, she said, is nearly a straight shot from the rural outskirts of Boston to the finish line in the heart of the city.
In addition, runners pass two colleges, Leslie College at about the halfway point, and Boston College, at about mile 20, where students engage in a spirited competition of cheers and signs directed toward the runners.
“A mile away from Leslie College you can hear them screaming. It’s just a continuous line of people,” Karlson said.
Karlson said she was one of thousands to receive an automatic bid into this year’s event after organizers quickly determined to hold the race again after the bombings. Karlson, though, declined and qualified by hitting her time in the San Francisco marathon last summer.
Since then, Karlson said she has grappled with the emotions of returning to the city. Lister, who was supposed to run in the Boston Marathon last year, but opted out after giving birth several weeks before, said the past year was tough on her running mentor.
“We talked about it, and I was lucky that I wasn’t there,” Lister said. “She doesn’t show a lot of emotion … because she is a strong woman.”
Jones echoed Lister’s thoughts, and said eventually Karlson found her running spirit. The re-discovered energy was on full display last weekend as Karlson won the 50-54 women’s age group in the half marathon of the Reno Downtown River Run.
Karlson said the run was for fun and to prepare for Boston, although those closest to her paint a different picture.
“She has gone through a range of emotions to where she didn’t want to ever run again, to angry and she was going to run,” Jones said. “Then she was determined to be there. I think the last few weeks she has been really driven.”
A legend, mentor to many
Karlson’s commitment is stuff of legend in the Fallon running community. After a ho-hum half marathon last Sunday and a 20-mile jog two weekends ago, Karlson knocked out a two-and-a-half hour bike ride on Monday followed with more running on Tuesday and cycling on Wednesday and Thursday.
Lister and Jones said they allowed her to cycle on Thursday, but capped her speed at 13 mph and time limit to just two hours. Only one word comes to mind for Lister and Jones when describing Karlson
“Badass,” they both echoed.
“In one word, that probably describes her,” Jones said. “She brought me into running, and is my running mentor. She is a very inspiring person and she didn’t have to go back. It’s been a roller coaster and is preparing to go there.”
Karlson’s dedication to running stems from a deep desire to challenge herself. In addition, the relationships she has developed throughout the years has also provided countless memories and stories to pass down.
While she may be rough on the surface, Jones and Lister said their mentor soon became a person who constantly believed they could achieve more, even if it meant using some devious tactics.
“She would tell you that you are running 10 miles that day, and then you look at your watch when you’re supposed to be done, and you still have two miles to go,” Lister said. “My first marathon, I should have been on the beginner training, and she lied to me, and put me on the advance. I remember thinking this is really, really hard. After we finished the marathon, she told me.”
Despite the covert running plans, Lister and Jones, among numerous others in Fallon, see Karlson as a role model and inspiration.
“She really is the staple for Fallon running,” Jones said. “If you don’t know DeVere’s name, you better get with the program.”
And while the emotions and pageantry may be overwhelming on Monday, Karlson said her goal for the race is not to record a personal best or finish in under a certain time, but to chow down on a Boston cream pie at The Parker House.
Of course, she must rely on her 21-year-old son, Austin, who Karlson jokingly said may not be awake by the time of the end of race.
“His goal is to get up before I finish and meet me at the finish line,” she laughed. “My goal is to get a Boston cream pie … and his goal is to get me there.”
Perhaps an alarm clock of more than 36,000 runners and tens of thousands of spectators will do the trick.