For Tim Ritchie, Bos­ton Marathon a spe­cial jour­ney

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - SPORTS - JEFF JA­COBS

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.

Michael Dwyer / As­so­ci­ated Press

Peo­ple gather at the Bos­ton Marathon fin­ish line on Sun­day in Bos­ton.

Michael Dwyer / As­so­ci­ated Press

Cristo­pher Nzenwa prays at the site of the first ex­plo­sion dur­ing the 2013 Bos­ton Marathon on Sun­day.

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