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Monday, May 6, 2013

Street Class - Boston Marathoners from Fort Thomas: Kathy Lane, Burnet Ridge, Michelle Lane

While most of the country was glued to their televisions on April 15, 2013, some Ft. Thomas natives were experiencing the day's tragic events soon after crossing the Boston Marathon finish line. Nathan Clinkenbeard and Colin Muehlenkamp, both Highlands High School graduates, had completed the Boston Marathon an hour before the bombs exploded. 

The hours following the marathon were meant to be a time of celebration, but their celebratory mood was swiftly deflated by the day's tragic events. "Normally there's an overwhelming sense of accomplishment afterward, and obviously it kind of put that on the back burner because you're overwhelmed by what is occurring and how terrible it is, how tragic it is for people," said Muehlenkamp. 

Before becoming marathon runners, Clinkenbeard grew up on Kathy Lane in the center of town, and Muehlenkamp called the north side home throughout his childhood. Muehlenkamp has lived on both Burnet Ridge and Michelle Lane during his time in Ft. Thomas. Clinkenbeard and Muehlenkamp met through running programs at Highlands High School, and have remained friends ever since. Both credit Ft. Thomas for helping them achieve their running goals. "You have sidewalks, the parks, a close knit running community. You can run, see someone you know, hop in with them and join them for a run. Whenever you go out, you see someone else running. It's very safe. There's no better town to grow up in as a runner than Ft. Thomas," said Clinkenbeard. 

The Boston Marathon is one of the country's most prestigious marathons, and is only open to qualified runners. Qualifying for the marathon is no easy feat. According the the Boston Athletic Association, any potential qualifiers "must meet the designated time standard that corresponds with their age group and gender in a certified marathon." For Muehlenkamp and Clinkenbeard, that meant they had to finish a certified marathon in 3 hours and 5 minutes to qualify for Boston. Clinkenbeard was able to qualify at the Birmingham Marathon in 2012, and the Carmel Marathon served as Muehlenkamp's qualifying run. 

Both men wanted to experience the Boston Marathon for its historic value as well as its reputation throughout the running community. According to Clinkenbeard, "To qualify for it is probably one of the top accomplishments you can have as an amateur runner. I just wanted to be able to qualify for it, and say that I went to Boston, and that's something I can tell my children and grandchildren." Muehlenkamp had a similar stance on the marathon's status. "It's arguably the world's most famous marathon. I've never heard anyone say that Boston wasn't a fun place to go and spend time," said Muehlenkamp. 

The road to the 2013 Boston Marathon was plagued with injuries for both Clinkenbeard and Muehlenkamp, but that didn't stop them from tackling the hilly, 26-mile terrain. When the run got tough, they relied on the crowd for a pick-me-up. "I'll never forget," said Clinkenbeard, "I was really hurting and really struggling with about four miles to go, and we got to Boston College, and the college students were hanging over the rails and high-fiving me, and that really picked me up for a couple miles to get through the rest of it." The course is rather unique since it's point-to-point instead of a more traditional route, which may circle throughout a city. 

Muehlenkamp, Clinkenbeard, and their accompanying family members were in a taxi when the first bomb exploded. They had cleared the finish line, and were on their way to grab some lunch before celebrating their great accomplishment. Muehlenkamp's father chose to walk to lunch instead of jumping into the taxi with them, and heard the two bombs explode. The group watched on during lunch as local Boston news outlets began covering the story. To the group, it initially seemed like an accident, and maybe even a gas explosion. News hadn't broke yet that the explosions occurred at the marathon. Once news hit that the two bombs had exploded near the marathon's finish line, the day took a sobering turn. 

"At that point, you're not thinking of going out and celebrating, we just hunkered down at the hotel, and watched the news, and tried to figure out what was going on to make some sense out of everything," said Clinkenbeard. According to Muehlenkamp, the Boston media was spot-on with their reporting, and much more thorough than the national news networks. 

The day's events especially hit home for Clinkenbeard when he saw photos of his wife and Muehlenkamp's wife at the finish line. The photo was snapped between where the two bombs exploded, and the iconic row of flags is visible in the background. "When you look at that picture," said Clinkenbeard,"you just think that could have been them. If those two guys decided to do it an hour earlier, our wives could have been there. It's scary to think about it. It sends chills down your spine." 

Despite all of the day's tragic events, Clinkenbeard and Muehlenkamp left Boston with a positive running experience. "I don't know if I can ever experience something that fun and that exciting in running again," said Clinkenbeard. Muehlenkamp has already talked about going back to the Boston Marathon at some point down the road. 

When asked if the bombings would deter them from running future marathons or participating in other high-profile sporting events, I received a swift "no" from both men. "I wouldn't be surprised if more people sign up now as a sign of defiance," said Muehlenkamp. Here's to hoping Muehlenkamp's prediction is right for next year. 

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