BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Like most of the country, U.S. distance runner Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce watched the horrific events at the Boston Marathon unfold on television.
Only, it was all happening just outside of her hotel, located a few steps away from where the bombings took place.
Rothstein-Bruce had just returned to her room after finishing 15th on April 15, when she heard the explosions. Soon after, her hotel went on lock down for protection.
“It was a feeling of helplessness, because you couldn’t go out there and help anyone,” Rothstein-Bruce said.
On Memorial Day, she will compete for the first time since the bombings in Boston, joining Deena Kastor and Laura Thweatt as members of Team United States at the Bolder Boulder.
Apprehensive? Hardly. More like determined when she takes the streets Monday for one of the nation’s largest 10-kilometer road races.
“Runners are not a fearful bunch and the events that took place would never deter me from doing what I love and competing,” Rothstein-Bruce said.
Kastor couldn’t agree more.
Given the heightened security for this race, she feels safe. Actually, that really isn’t even on her mind so much as trying to end the reign of Team Ethiopia, which has won four straight titles in the international team challenge.
“It was an awful day for every runner around the country, whether you were there or not,” Kastor said of Boston. “Let’s just hope it’s behind us.”
Rothstein-Bruce was deeply touched by what took place over the weekend, when thousands of athletes joined victims of the blast to run and walk the last mile of the Boston Marathon.
“Now that’s really cool,” said Rothstein-Bruce, who trains in Flagstaff, Ariz. “That’s very powerful.
“Runners are just a resilient bunch — they can come back from things like that.”
Rothstein-Bruce wasn’t planning to compete at Bolder Boulder this year. But that changed when she received a call two weeks ago from race officials, who needed a last-minute replacement.
She instantly agreed.
This is an intriguing race, too, with three runners from each country teaming up and their combined finishes determining the winner. The professional race goes on after more than 50,000 of your average citizen runners pound the pavement, all finishing inside Folsom Field.
“To be on Team USA on Memorial Day? That’s exciting,” she said.
It’s the reason Kastor keeps returning for this race, too, on a course that seems to suit her quite well. She captured the overall title for three straight years (2001-03) at this venue.
Last year, the 40-year-old Kastor finished third despite a tight back.
“I couldn’t run a step after that race for two months,” said Kastor, who was kept busy at a pre-race luncheon by chasing her 2-year-old daughter, Piper, around the room. “I have no idea what happened.”
In good shape this time?
“We could always use a few more weeks, to prepare for competition,” Kastor said. “I’m in relatively good fitness, but could still use some sharpening.”
Lately, Kastor has been doing quite a bit of traveling. She recently traveled to Joplin, Mo., to give a speech on the two-year anniversary of the devastating tornado which hit that area.
Soon, she will return home to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., to resume her training on the trails around the ski resort. She’s logging more than 100 miles a week to prepare for the marathon at the Moscow world championships in August.
Asked how long she plans to compete, Kastor simply said, “Forever.
“I’m a runner for life,” she added. “I’ll be at it for as long as my body will hold up.”
There are certainly no signs of her slowing down, either.
“In my mind, she’s the greatest female American distance runner that we’ve ever had,” Rothstein-Bruce said.
Rothstein-Bruce is making great strides to get her career on track again. For a while, nagging injuries and ailments constantly interrupted her training.
In 2010, she was diagnosed with celiac disease, which is a reaction to gluten in wheat or other grains. Since altering her diet, her performances have soared.
“Night and day difference,” Rothstein-Bruce explained. “That was a big eye opener.”
So was her experience in Boston. Two hours after her finish, she was sitting in her hotel room with her husband, Ben, when she heard the first explosion.
“My husband thought it was pipes that broke,” she explained.
And then another.
“I had a bad feeling. I said, ‘I think that was an explosion,'” Rothstein-Bruce recounted. “The hard part was we were so close but we couldn’t leave our hotel. We were watching on the news, just as everyone 3,000 miles away were.”
To run through the streets of Boulder on Monday — with packs of fellow runners — will be uplifting.
“I have absolutely no apprehension in standing on the starting line after what happened in Boston,” Rothstein-Bruce said.
NOTES: The men’s Team U.S. squad is composed of Aaron Braun, Brent Vaughn and Kenyon Neuman. They’re looking to end a string of six straight titles by the Ethiopians. … Allan Kiprono of Kenya returns to defend his title.
– By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
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