It has been an extraordinary couple days since we set out on the fifth Epic Man. Our journey was built on spreading the message “Inspire and be inspired. Be Epic.” Every year, our team is made up of incredible people from across the country, brought together by a common purpose and shared challenge.
We pushed off from Peaks Island under sunny skies and calm seas. Time even allowed for a quick exploration of Fort Georges, followed by a group picture. After safely arriving back at the mainland, we said goodbye to the Maine Island Kayak guides and headed to Sebago Brewing Company to meet up with the riders from Portsmouth Trek Store. Over 20 cyclists joined us for the first section of the 145 mile ride. Everyone was excited to be out on the road. Besides a few downpours, the ride flew by without any incidents (an Epic Man first!).
After a delicious dinner at Trek Portsmouth, courtesy of Flatbread and Smuttynose, we said goodbye to the other riders, Team Trevor, and their great supporters. The proceeds from that part of the Epic Man were donated to Team Trevor in their battle against cystic fibrosis. Each year, when we reconnect with the family, we get updates on Trevor’s progress. It is humbling, to say the least, and offers us perspective as we take off for the hardest part of the journey.
The Epic Man core team, consisting of 11 in 2013, began the long ride to Hopkinton at 8:30pm. We stopped for a short break at Ted’s home in Hampton Falls, NH. At midnight, we got back on our bikes, and started what would turn out to be one of the longest days of our lives.
As the day turned to night, we faced more and more difficult conditions. Temperatures dropped below freezing, the headwind picked up, and the hills became bigger. It felt like daylight would never arrive. But, as our energy fell to its lowest levels, the sky grew brighter, the temps rose higher, and our spirits lifted. By the time we reached Hopkinton, we were feeling optimistic about the final leg of the adventure. The weather was perfect for running, and we boarded the very last shuttle bus for the start.
Running the Boston Marathon after biking all night to get there is beyond surreal. After 8 hours of riding in the dark silence, you find yourself exhausted, sore, and surrounded by thousands of nervous runners. It is overwhelming, yet exhilarating. No one knows about our whole journey, and it doesn’t really matter, because when the gun goes off, you are just one of the 27,000 lucky runners doing Boston.
Running Boston is like nothing else. All of the clichés are true. It is as epic as epic gets. The crowds, the athletes, the spirit, the history - The Boston Marathon trumps any other athletic event. Kayaking and biking our way to the start only heightens the experience. Making the turn onto Boylston Street for the finish is one of life’s great moments.
When the bombs went off, most of our team had either just finished, or were within minutes of the line. Will and Tyler were in post-race area, less than a block away, and saw the explosions. Mike, George, Josh, and Forrest were about to turn onto Hereford St when they were stopped by police. A few minutes difference for any of them could have meant a dramatically different outcome. Our friends and family had been standing along Boylston Street for hours, and had all miraculously moved away before 2:50pm. Seth and Skip were waiting for the team at the Westin Copley Hotel, directly across the street from the second blast.
Within minutes of the blasts, cell service became non-existent. Will had planned to meet Skip and Seth at the Westin, but it was nearly impossible to get there. He ran through crowds of sobbing people and screaming officials, trying to get through the barricades. The area was going into lockdown and the air was full of smoke and sirens. After a couple unsuccessful attempts, Will managed to get out of the finish line area and over to the hotel.
Josh, George, Forrest, and Mike heard the blasts from Commonwealth Ave. They were stopped less than a mile from the finish and held without explanation of what had happened. They feared the worst, especially knowing that their friends and family had been waiting on Boylston. By the time they could move, cell service was non-existent, except for some text messaging.
The next few hours were a blur, spent tracking down our team members and their families, contacting loved ones to let them know we were okay, and trying to make sense of the deluge of information that was being spread. Will made it to the Westin at 3:30pm, after 45 minutes of navigating the mayhem, to meet up with Seth. Knowing that everyone was safe, they grabbed their bags set out to try to make it to Logan airport. As they exited the building, the police were setting up the crime scene barriers. They heard the officer behind them tell the crowd that no one was allowed to leave until further notice, but they had already gotten to the other side of the barricades.
The streets were jammed. People were rushing around, screaming into cell phones, sobbing, or just standing in shock. There was still smoke in the air, and the sirens were overwhelming. Hearing that the highway was closed, Seth and Will decided to head to the subway, which was still operating. There were other runners rushing alongside, still wearing the same sweaty clothes they had run in, clutching their precious medals in one hand and dragging luggage in the other. The Back Bay station was surreal. Many of the people there didn’t know about the bombs, and others were crying hysterically. Police were running, radios crackling, and every TV showing the blasts over and over.
Seth and Will got on what ended up being one of the last trains to leave Back Bay station. They arrived Logan at 4:30 p.m. The security line was over an hour long, and their flight was at 5:15pm. All arriving flights had been canceled and rumors were circulating that there was a no-fly zone over Boston. Boarding passes in hand, they pleaded with an attendant to allow them to use the staff entrance. He did, and they arrived at the gate with only minutes to spare. Their plane took off at 5:30 p.m. Within an hour, Logan was lockdown and all flights were grounded. They landed in Newark for a two-hour layover, and spent the entire time responding to texts, e-mails, and facebook messages, before the 12-hour flight to Buenos Aires.
When we reflect back on how it all happened, the circumstances that lead to everyone being safe and unharmed seem extraordinary. And we remain deeply grateful. But we know that many people are not so lucky and our hearts are heavy for them.
The fabric of Epic Man is intimately woven with the essence of Boston – the place, the people, the energy. The Marathon captures this essence in a single, spectacular day. We started Epic Man to spread a message of inspiration, and to challenge people to find out what is possible for themselves. The Boston Marathon represents the culmination of this message.
In the wake of the Boston Bombings, we remain humbled by the amazing acts of bravery displayed by the volunteers, police, officials, and first responders. We are proud to be a part of this community, and we are inspired to live life to the fullest each and every day.
To us, Epic Man is much more than the physical journey from Peaks to Boylston. It is a collection of stories of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. It is a way of seeing the world, offering a perspective driven by what is possible. We push through the dark moments in solidarity, knowing that this world can be complicated and scary. By sharing our experiences with each other, both physically and in spirit, we create a community that is stronger than any one individual. We rely on this community to provide the support, courage, tenacity, and drive that pushes us forward, regardless of how hopeless life can seem.
Inspiration exists everywhere, yet remains ephemeral. Each spark has a short lifespan, and most don’t light a roaring fire. But when an entire community is generating sparks at once, chances are pretty good that many fires will be lit. Facing a world fundamentally changed by the events at the Marathon, we need these fires more than ever.