‘I wasn't full of fear’
Mike Johnson had soldiered through 12 marathons in 12 months. The year-long challenge was a personal one, with an added goal of raising money for a Bible camp in Amery, Wis.
Boston was to be his mountaintop, yet it’s the one he and thousands of others would not reach.
Johnson was spent heading into the marathon, but Hopkinton’s start-line vibe temporarily rejuvenated him. The chilly but gorgeous morning, the twitchy pre-race energy and banter with strangers, the festive atmosphere. “I was not all that excited to be running, but was excited to be in this event. It was big.”
Twenty-some miles later, having survived the hills of Newton, Johnson was weary and hungry, but determined to finish strong. Just past the 25-mile mark, on Commonwealth Avenue, Johnson scanned the horizon and saw runners stopped mid-run 100 yards off.
Spectators told him and nearby runners of explosions at the finish, but the details were scant. Meanwhile, more runners converged on the bottleneck. Some decided to get off their feet and were lying on the street. Johnson borrowed a spectator’s phone and recalled having the good fortune to reach his wife, Zanny, back in Stillwater. “I just said, I want to let you know something is going on. I’m safe.”
Action beyond the barriers was intense, too, a torrent of police cars, ambulances and black SUVs. After 30 minutes or so, he knew there would be no victory lap down Boylston. “I thought, this is not just a stop in the race. This race is over.”
With that, Johnson climbed over a spectator barrier, started walking back to the hotel and ended his dream of crossing his first Boston finish line.
'People are excited'
Johnson was one of 5,633 who were unable to finish, all of whom later received certficates with their projected finish times. They were all also invited to run again this year .
Johnson said he is grateful for another chance to take his place in Boston Marathon history. Support has been a big motivator. “People are excited for me.”
“Once I qualified for Boston (last year), then I felt like, I am a marathoner,” Johnson said. “So to go back, to be able to run again on that course, with those people, is a big deal for me.”