For all the terrible emotions brought about when two bombs exploded at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon one year ago Tuesday, former Friendship Christian School cross country runner Josh Erhard said his life changed for the better.
Erhard, a 2010 Friendship Christian graduate, crossed the finish line about an hour before the explosions.
Two large explosions rocked the Boston Marathon finish line at Copley Square a year ago Tuesday at 2:50 p.m. EST that left three people dead and more than 260 others injured on streets crowded with runners, spectators and post-race partiers.
“I actually just watched an E60 on the Boston Marathon on ESPN and a memorial at 2:50 p.m. at the time when the bombs went off last year,” Erhard said.
Erhard said he learned of the explosions a year ago in his hotel room from CNN reports. He finished the race with a time of 3:08:30, and said at the time he had a good race under great weather conditions.
Erhard now reflects on the 2013 Boston Marathon as an event that changed his life.
“I don’t take things for granted nearly as much,” he said. “It really strengthened my spiritual life. I actually was baptized that summer after the marathon. I think about the fact that my mother and father were standing right there about 45 minutes before the bombs exploded and how much I appreciate my parents are still around.”
Tuesday evening, Erhard said a flurry of emotions came rushing back after he watched the scenes replayed on television, as well as memorials held in tribute to those who died or were injured.
“Seeing the pictures has definitely brought back a lot of emotions for me,” Erhard said. “I had to fight back the tears watching all of it. I’ve been trying to come up with a way to honor those who were killed and injured in the attack. I think I am going to run a race Saturday in Lebanon and paint ‘Boston strong’ on myself.”
The race Saturday is the Superhero 5K to benefit CASA. It begins at 8:15 a.m. at the Wilson County Fairgrounds. Erhard said he opted not to participate in Monday’s Boston Marathon for several reasons.
“As I watch everything that is going on, I actually regret that decision,” he said. “But there were some things that happened to me along the way. I spent the summer on a mission trip in Honduras, and I wound up getting sick, so I didn’t get to train and compete in a qualifier for the marathon.”
While Erhard won’t be running back-to-back Boston Marathons, four Wilson Countians plan to participate in the race Monday. According to the Boston Marathon website, Raymond Hurd, 53, and Linda Lamott, 41, both of Lebanon, and Manuel Arellano, 63, and Marshall Edmondson, 36, both of Mt. Juliet, are registered to attempt the 26.2-mile course. Arellano ran the race last year.
Erhard plans to begin his fifth year at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the fall and hopes to create a 5K race in Chattanooga this summer to benefit Run4Water. His former cross country coach at Friendship, Greg Armstrong, started the organization, which funds water supply efforts to areas around the world. Erhard is on the board of directors.
“That’s hopefully going to be my pride and joy,” Erhard said. “With this being such a running community in Chattanooga, we hope to bring the kind of success it’s seen in Lebanon.”
As for those responsible for the explosions, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, has yet to go to trial. His older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a shoot-out with police.
“Obviously you hope the people are caught to take the fear away from the people who are living there,” Erhard said. “As far as his punishment goes, we can only do so much. It’s ultimately God who will judge him. He will get his – whatever punishment he receives on earth.”