First Responders to Run Boston Strong This Year

By Caleb Daniloff, Runner’s World
4/18/2014 11:43:10 AM

Soldiers and cops who finished the Boston Marathon, then raced to the rescue efforts, are coming back to run again.

Even though David Diamond scrubbed "the hell out" of his Altra Instincts, he knows there's something forever adhered to them. Those shoes carried the 40-year-old Army special operations officer across the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street last year, and then, sickeningly, into a scene of carnage. He will lace up that same pair of size-10 Altras on April 21 for the 2014 Boston Marathon. "I want those shoes to cross that finish line again, as a tribute, as recognition to those involved last year," he says. "I want to carry a piece of them throughout the race."

Diamond, who has an 18-year-long military career, was one of several hundred military and state police troopers who received an invitational bib from the Boston Athletic Association in appreciation of their service. Many of those invited men and women attend the marathon as part of a group organized by Massachusetts State Police Detective Lieutenant William Coulter. Back in 1978, Coulter corralled four of his fellow boys in blue to run from Hopkinton to Boylston with him. In the years that followed, Coulter's runners grew to include troopers from throughout New England. And in 2009, Coulter, a 33-time Boston finisher, started extending the invite to military runners as well.

2010 Boston Marathon elite woman at start of race, Hopkinton Massachsetts. (Credit: Flickr/JD)

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Coulter's crew is loosely organized--no team name, no shared training plan, no group runs, since the troopers are scattered throughout New England, and the military members are stationed worldwide. Instead, they are bonded by their shared experiences of front-line service. On Marathon Monday, the outfit ships to the starting line in a flotilla of coaches, escorted by police. After the race, the runners meet at the Boston Athletic Club for showers, a barbecue, and war stories. "It's an amazing display of camaraderie and esprit de corps," Diamond says.

Only it was a different story last year, in those gruesome hours when a city's faith and confidence were shattered. Diamond was among six soldiers and state troopers from Coulter's crew who ran the race and then raced into action, tending to the wounded, attempting to save lives.

Barring unforeseen military or police obligations, all six plan to pin on Boston Marathon bibs again this year. One of Diamond's prerace traditions has been walking to, but not crossing, the finish line the night before. "Emotionally, I'm sure it's gonna hit me hard," he says. "I'll probably take a moment, probably shed a tear. But it'll be good to be part of the first one back and reset the tone."

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Lieutenant Colonel Diamond

When Diamond hit the finish line mats last year, his watch read 3:56. He was elated; the seven-time marathoner had been chasing a sub-four at Boston. He sat on a curb to soak it all in when the air shook. "Having been in Iraq five times, I was used to blast sounds and chaos," he says. "As soon as that bomb detonated, everybody stopped around me. Their worlds stopped. Mine didn't. I ran straight to it. I knew exactly what happened."

As he pushed his way past marathon security, what he found--shredded clothes, shocked faces, badly damaged limbs--rivaled his combat experiences. His adrenaline surged, his training took over. He dashed into Marathon Sports, a running specialty shop, and grabbed belts, shirts, and packing material and distributed them to responders who were kneeling over the wounded. Diamond fastened as many as 15 tourniquets in an hour, and with other responders, resuscitated a man in his 60s and placed him in an ambulance.

"I felt a very strong commitment to duty, to those people who were there to enjoy this very patriotic day, it being Patriots' Day," Diamond says. And it's why he's going back. "Just watching the strength and resilience that came out of it, the way Boston unified," he says, "helped me heal and know we're going to be okay."

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Massachusetts State Police Trooper David Twomey

Twomey, an eight-time marathoner, tossed his finisher foil and dashed into the fray. "I just hammered at the barricades," says Twomey, 36, of Quincy Massachusetts, who in doing so, cleared the way for paramedics and other responders to access the scene. Like the others, his actions were automatic and instinctual. Emotions hit later. "I grew up around here," he says. "It's a familiar area. In some footage, I can see myself in the scene. That's tough. But I'm not nervous about returning. Security will be ramped up. The marathon will probably be the safest place to be."

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