For Tim Ritchie, Boston Marathon a special journey
The 2013 Boston Marathon was Tim Ritchie’s first marathon. Yes, it was that Boston Marathon.
He had grown up in Worcester, a star runner at Doherty High and later at Boston College. He would go on to get his master’s degree in theology on Chestnut Hill and coach track at BC for six years.
The morning of April 15, 2013 sprang cool and sunny. For the love of 23,336 runners, for the love of the half-million spectators who lined the 26-mile course stretching from Hopkinton, for the love of God, no theologian could ever offer a full and divine explanation of what happened later that afternoon.
“Boston was something I had been looking forward to for my whole running life,” said Ritchie, 30, who as one of America’s best will run Boston for the second time Monday. “It was a thrill to be on the start line.
“The race was all right for me. It was a learning experience. But it was such a beautiful day. My family was there. My friends were on the course. My old teammates at Boston College were cheering me on. Yeah, the majority of the day was one of the best days of my life.”
Ritchie, who moved to New Haven in 2016, was only 150 yards away when he heard the first bomb go off. He already had completed his race, finishing 25th in 2:21:31. He had returned to his hotel to gather some things and met up with his sister and a friend near the finish line. They were waiting for another friend to get through bag check. It was 2:50 p.m.
“Our vision was blocked by the headquarters tent, we didn’t see anything,” Ritchie said. “We just heard the loud noises. The police came and told us to evacuate the area immediately. We just wanted to get out of there and get to a safe space. I had a lot of friends who ran the race, so I was concerned about them. It was chaotic.”
Mass transit was shut down. No taxis were to be found. They walked over the Charles River into Cam-
bridge and slowly zigzagged their way four miles back home to Brighton. Three spectators would die in the bombings, 264 were injured. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Kyrgyz-American brothers, had detonated homemade bombs a dozen seconds and 200 yards apart. The cowards failed mightily in their quest to terrorize a city.
“Obviously, there was a lot of sadness, but I also believe there was a lot of triumph shown that day and a lot of goodness,” Ritchie said. “I was inspired to be a runner in the aftermath of the bombings, especially the way other runners took care of each other.
“Throughout all the sadness there was this sense of honoring the victims and unity among the running community that was powerful.”
This will be Ritchie’s sixth marathon. His fifth was a terrific one. On Dec. 2, he won the USATF Marathon Championships, held in conjunction with the California International Marathon. At 2:11:56, he shaved off nearly three minutes off his personal best. Along with Galen Rupp, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, he was one of two Americans to better 2:12 in 2017. Ritchie ran a controlled race, pounding out an impressive negative split (66:52-65:04).
“It was a goal of mine to win a national title and awesome to share it with my coach (Tim Broe), my team (Saucony Freedom Track Club) and my family,” Ritchie said. “There are a lot of unknowns with marathons, a lot of things that can go wrong and can wrong for a long period of time.
“It’s an event I’m still getting to learn. Running the second half of that race significantly faster was a great reassurance that maybe I’m really heading in the right direction.”
Ritchie had kept his training mileage relatively low before Sacramento and took a break after the marathon. He finished 23rd in the USATF Cross Country Championships on Feb. 3, Ritchie said, to “get the legs running and kickstart the marathon training.” He had planned to run the New York City Half Marathon in March, but withdrew with a strained calf.
“This training block has been interesting, hiccups and obstacles along the way,” Ritchie said. “I’ve had to be creative, a lot of crosstraining, the mileage didn’t get to the point I was hopeful, but I feel like I had to do whatever I could to maintain my health.”
Ritchie lived in Boston for 11 years before leaving in 2016 for New Haven to join his girlfriend, Kirstin. She had enrolled as a graduate student in the Yale School of Nursing. Yes, it was tough to leave Boston and Boston College. Yes, he was nervous about the big move.
“But it made sense personally and professionally,” Ritchie said. “I wanted to dive more into full-time racing, too. We love it in New Haven. We felt at home since we got here.”
They married last August.
“New Haven is great, the running scene is great,” Ritchie said. “As far as training, I think it’s one of the best. You have trails, you have bike baths, Yale has indoor and outdoor track facilities.”
Ritchie is a volunteer coach at Yale. He, too, helps get people ready for the Faxon Law New Haven Road Race and the Cheshire Half Marathon. Kirstin will graduate in May. The couple will see where opportunities will take them.
“If it’s Connecticut, great,” Ritchie said. “If it’s Massachusetts, great.”
Growing up in Worcester, he said he’d watch the Boston Marathon in the early miles. At BC, he’d line up with the students on Chestnut Hill around Mile 21. Tim Ritchie knows the race. He knows what it means.
“The clock is kind of secondary at Boston,” Ritchie said. “The weather, the course, the competition takes precedence. If I were to finish in the top 20, top 15, really be in the race, that would be a big day for me. Competing at the 2020 Olympic Games would be the No. 1 goal from here. Other than that, Boston, for me, is on par with the Olympics when it comes to distance running. I’d like to have a great race this year and come back next year and build on that, try to get into the Top 10, Top Five.
“The Boston Marathon isn’t just a road race, this is what Boston is all about. It’s tough. It’s unique. It’s the race that brings out the best in people. I try not to lose sight how lucky I am to run in this race. It’s long road from Hopkinton to Boston, but it’s a special journey.”
Tim Ritchie knew that before April 15, 2013. He has lived it since.
People gather at the Boston Marathon finish line on Sunday in Boston.
Cristopher Nzenwa prays at the site of the first explosion during the 2013 Boston Marathon on Sunday.