A Boston Marathon runner is pleading with the Boston Athletic Association for a second chance following last month's terror attack, which not only killed three and injured 260, but shot down finish line dreams for thousands of runners.
Ryan Polly was still a mile from the finish line when the bombings occurred, which is why the Vermont native launched a fast-growing petition on Change.org asking the Boston Athletic Association to allow thousands of runners in his situation to get a second chance to run the race.
According Marc Davis, a BAA spokesman, the association has yet to make a decision on whether it would grant the request.
"We appreciate the enthusiasm that is being built around the participation in the 2014 Boston Marathon. And for those runners who were unable to finish the race this past April, we can understand their strong desire to finish something that, for most of them, is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Davis said. "However, there are many logistical factors involved in changing the structure of an event of this size and stature."
Polly trained for months in sub-zero Vermont winter temperatures to prepare for the race. He is one of about 5,700 runners who had yet to complete the marathon when they were diverted from the course and informed of the violence at the finish line.
"We were not able to experience the exhilaration that only crossing the finish line can bring. The most exciting day of our lives turned out to be the scariest," he said on the petition, which asks the BAA, as well as mayors from cities and towns along the Boston Marathon route, to allow the 5,700 runners who did not get to finish this year’s marathon to bypass the costly and time-intensive registration process and automatically register for the 2014 race so that they can finish what they started.
As of noon, Ryan's petition had collected more than 19,000 signatures.
“Thousands of runners had our dream destroyed by the attack at the Boston Marathon,” Polly said. “By not crossing the finish line, we have been left with a mixture of emotions that are difficult to articulate. We need to be able to finish what we started. We need the closure that only crossing the finish line can bring. Our families and friends need it as well. We really hope the BAA will listen and let us run again.”
With registration for the 2014 Boston Marathon still four months away, Davis said officials "have plenty of time to make sure that we do what is best, and more so, what is capable by all parties involved."
Other Boston Marathon runners are signing Polly’s petition and sharing their stories in the comments section:
Coleen Phillips from Uxbridge, Mass. “I was one of the racers whose dreams of finishing the Boston Marathon were dashed due to terrorism. I have dreamt of running the marathon since I was a little girl. ... I want to finish what I started. They took away my moment but I will not allow that to stop me.”
Christine Griffin of Pembroke, Mass. “My mom and sister were only a few dozen yards away from the blasts, waiting for me to run by. They were unharmed physically, and are gradually healing emotionally. Despite what they went through, they want to be there to cheer me on next year.”
Janine Forgione of Cary, N.C. "I waffle between the guilt for asking to run again and then being angry that I didn't finish and then the worst is that I feel, in light of what happened, I feel like I shouldn't ask at all. That is a horrible place to be in. Someone had told me that is a part of post traumatic [stress disorder]. Makes sense. Our grit and determination will and should trump that evil that kept us from our dream."
New signatures on Polly’s petition are sent via email to the BAA and the relevant mayors. As the signature count on the petition approached 10,000 in the late afternoon Wednesday, representatives from the BAA reached out to Polly directly stating that they were interested in hearing feedback from the runners but did not commit to a specific timeline for addressing their concerns.
“Thousands of people, many of them runners who didn’t have a chance to finish this year’s Boston Marathon, are joining Ryan Polly’s petition,” said Tim Newman, deputy campaign director at Change.org. “Ryan’s petition has become a central place for Boston Marathon runners to join together as a community and send a clear message to the BAA that they want to run in 2014 and finish what they started.”