Bringing it Home: Boston Marathon takes on added meaning for Aspen runners

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

Editor’s note: “Bringing it Home” runs weekends in The Aspen Times and focuses on state, national or international issues that have ties to or impacts on the Roaring Fork Valley.

On April 15, 2013, all Marcy DiSalvo could do was watch the horrific episode unfold on television while she was vacationing in Hawaii.

The Aspen resident, now 60, had spent her post-college years living on Boylston Street — the very avenue where two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon that day. Three people were killed and another 260 were injured.

“I was watching this, and it made me think about when I used to live there,” DiSalvo recalled. “My family’s there, and my niece lives where the race starts (Hopkington, Mass.).”

When DiSalvo was invited to run in Monday’s race, she didn’t flinch and signed up. As many runners do in large-scale footraces, she also began to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.

“My mother’s 90, and she has Alzheimer’s. It’s like someone’s dying before they’re physically gone. It affects everyone. If it’s not someone in your family, you know someone who’s affected by it.”

A runner herself, DiSalvo ran the Boston Marathon once — in 1996, the 100-year anniversary of what’s widely considered the holy grail of America’s marathons.

But this Monday, with the backdrop of last year’s terrorism still looming large, will have a heightened meaning for DiSalvo and other runners.

“The love and support, it all makes me proud to be from Boston,” she said.

DiSalvo will be among a group of Aspen and other Roaring Fork Valley residents running in the 26.2-mile contest. The race indisputably will have a different feel this time around, with 36,000 runners participating — up 9,000 from last year’s field — and another 10,000 volunteers.

The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that about 3,500 National Guard officers and plainclothes police will be working the course. There will be more than 100 video feeds along the course, as well.

Count Chris Keleher, coach of Aspen High School’s cross-country team, is among the locals toeing the line for the Patriot’s Day race. He ran it two years ago, and he compared last year’s bombings to the sentiment that came in the wake of Sept. 11.

“Nobody looks at flying the same way,” Keleher said. “It’s the same with running.”

Even so, Keleher said he expects the crowds and runners to be “super vigilant.”

“I think people will be watching out for each other, which is counter-intuitive to what the terrorists want,” he said.

A veteran of four Boston Marathons, Aspen resident Jim Korpela will seek No. 5 on Monday. When asked if he felt any trepidation going into the race, out of fear for another attack, the West Point graduate deadpanned: “No.”

“When last year happened, I didn’t hesitate (to enter this year’s race),” he said. “It just reinforced my desire to run this year. It’s one of those iconic American events, and for somebody to attack an event like that, and the response you’ve seen in the Boston Strong movement, everybody will be ready.”

Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron won’t be running Boston on Monday, but he’s completed the race six or seven times. He said he fondly remembers the crowds along the course pushing him through the tough times.

“You always hate to see these events lose their innocence,” he said. “That’s how I look at this.

“And in the context of (the runners) and their stories and what it took to get there, to have it violated by this random act of terrorism, to inflict this horror on people who were spectators or coming out to support their friends and family who themselves have spent months or years or even a lifetime trying to get into Boston …”

Keleher said that distance runners have a special resolve.

“Someone said after the bombings that if they’re trying to break a long-distance runner, then they’re barking at the wrong crew,” he said. “We’re in for the long haul, and you’re picking on the wrong people.”