Joe Wojcic

Plebe Baseball with Numerals

Below is a very nice piece written by Joe’s brother-in-law and fellow marathoner on the experience of running Monday in Boston. (Picked up by the Dallas Morning News)

My brother-in-law Joe Wojcik, who died last July of pancreatic cancer, was one tough runner. He had a streak of not missing a day of running for over 34 years, and had run several Boston Marathons, some of them with me. We had many years sharing our passion for running.

Last year was a difficult year for our entire family as his health declined, but Joe was stoic, forthright and impatient with platitudes or maudlin comments. But he did express one wish: “If you ever go back to Boston, leave my ashes along the course as my final visit there.” He loved that race.

This year was my tenth and final Boston. I didn’t want to go at all, but I had to for Joe. His son Joseph Jr. and I planned to run carrying a few small one-inch square packets of ashes, and spread them at memorable points on the course: the start, Wellesley, Heartbreak Hill and the Finish.

Last year my nephew and I also ran in that awful heat, and Joe told us before we left, “When you get to the Citgo sign (one mile from the finish) I’ll be there for you in spirit and run you in.” I told my nephew, I’m going to break down when I get to the Citgo sign thinking of him but it will be great to know he is with us,” and in fact it was quite emotional for me during that last mile in 2012. I knew that would be a place I would want to leave some ashes this year.

My wife, who normally waits for me at the finish, told me she would be on the left side of the course by the sign, so she could wave to me and watch me leave some ashes for Joe. And that is why she was far from the explosions on race day. Thank you Joe.

As for me, my entire race was about this family mission. I spent the whole week traveling on business and went into the race pretty tired, but I didn’t care. I had no time goal, just a plan to enjoy this final Boston, take my time, slap hands with the Wellesley women, wave to everyone and savor the experience.

So while I didn’t have my best race time, it was the best thing that could have happened for me, as I was three miles from the finish when the tragedy happened. I heard nothing, and no one told me anything. But a curious thing occurred. About a half mile from the finish, as I was approaching the Mass. Ave underpass, I saw ahead of me a number of spectators on the course, and people running all around. I wondered why the police were allowing this, as the security to protect the course from the spectators is very tight as you come into the City.

Like an idiot, I tried to run around these people. I had to get to the finish and knew nothing of what had happened. At last two runners stopped me and yelled, “You have to stop. The race is cancelled. There were explosions and no one can approach the finish line!”

If you have ever run the marathon you know that late in the race you lose the ability to think rationally. I couldn’t process this at all, and my first thought was that someone had pulled a prank, or there was a firecracker or smoke bomb and people were overreacting.

But as I mingled with all the other runners who had been stopped, very slowly the news got pieced together. “Oh no, how could this have happened? Those poor people.”

I’m on my way home as I write this, and all through last night and today, those of us who escaped harm shared similar stories. “I ran the race of my life and finished just a few minutes ahead of the explosions.”, “My wife went back to the hotel to get me a jacket, or she would have been right there.”, and so on.

But my story is a bit different. I know it sounds crazy, but I’d rather believe that on Monday Joe was still watching out for us. Joe, you’re now part of the Boston course, both physically and spiritually. Rest in peace, and thank you Joe.


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