The finish line was less than a mile away.
By ROBERT A. CRONKLETON
The Kansas City Star
But because of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, three Kansas City area runners were among those who could not cross it.
On Saturday, though, they will get the chance to reach a finish line when they run the final seven-tenths of a mile at the Garmin Marathon in Olathe.
“I’m touched and amazed and speechless,” said Whitney Jarvis, 32, of Olathe. “It is a real touching effort for them to make for us.”
Organizers of the Garmin Marathon announced Wednesday that the marathon will have a special finish-line ceremony for local participants in the Boston Marathon.
The ceremony is in support of the people affected by the bombings and the runners who were unable to finish, said Carly Baltes, communication director for the Olathe Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the marathon.
“We wanted to support those folks in any way possible,” she said.
So on Saturday, Jarvis, along with Sarah Bibens of Kansas City and Chau Smith of Oak Grove, will run that final distance.
Their coach, Eladio Valdez with The Runner’s Edge, had contacted race officials to see whether his runners could have a symbolic “finish” to their Boston Marathon.
“All three ladies have unfinished business,” said Valdez, whose wife, Myra, had urged him to call Garmin Marathon officials. “We are not going to take away by any means what happened in Boston. We can’t even wrap our arms around that. But as runners, we understand you want to finish what you started.”
Organizers hope to time the women’s finish around noon so their family and friends can attend.
Valdez said he is working with the Kansas City running community to invite other Boston runners who were unable to complete their race, too. He also hopes that runners who did finish in Boston will come out and show their support.
The gesture means a lot to the three women.
“When I looked at the email, I started to cry so hard,” Smith said. “I was just crying. It was a great idea.”
For Smith, running the Boston Marathon was a dream come true.
“I always was a slow runner,” she said. “I run to release stress and to be healthy.”
Deep down, Smith, who is 67 years old, wanted to run Boston, but she never thought she would qualify for it.
So when she did qualify, she was so excited and happy.
On the day of the race, Smith, who usually has cramp and stomach problems, was having one of her best runs.
The weather was perfect, and the crowds were unbelievable.
“I was just having wonderful time,” Smith said. “That is why it was so disappointing is that deep down I really wanted to re-qualify even though I told my family that if I could run one Boston Marathon that would be enough.”
Although she initially wanted to run to the finish line, once she learned what had happened, Smith didn’t want to anymore.
“I started to cry,” she said. “I started shaking really badly.”
The following days, she and her family were glued to the news.
Running on Saturday will be important to show the small of group of people who may try to hurt the innocent that they will not take away freedom.
It will also be a way to honor those who were injured or lost their lives.
“First I was upset and thought I would never go back to Boston,” she said. “But I say that yes, I will go back. I will try to re-qualify again. I will be up there again.”
Bibens sees the Olathe offer as a great opportunity.
“Not coming home with a (finisher’s) medal was the last thought on my mind coming home from Boston,” said Bibens. “But now that I’m home, selfishly you kind of feel cheated.”
At 55 years old, Bibens said she doesn’t know whether this was her only shot at qualifying for Boston.
“It will feel good to cross the finish line,” she said.
Bibens said she was at the runner’s expo in Boston on Sunday and her daughter, Katie Bibens, asked whether she wanted to see the finish line.
“I told her no, that I was going to run across it the next day,” she said. “But I didn’t get to.”
Bibens, who was injured before the marathon, said that if she had been running on her usual pace, she would have been at the finish line at the time of the explosions.
“I was fortunate that I was injured, and I couldn’t continue to run the whole way,” Bibens said.
Jarvis said she, too, ran injured. Otherwise, she probably would have finished before the explosions.
“The finish in Boston is a big deal — it is the best finish in marathoning,” she said. “But in the grand scheme of things, finishing that race is not really important. There were people who died that day.”
She said she can’t be mad about being unable to complete the Boston Marathon, but Saturday will have special meaning.
“Yes, this will be an emotional ‘finish’ for me to make because it’s symbolic,” she said.
It’s about not letting an act of terror beat you or having your spirit broken, she said. It’s about finishing what you started.
“But mostly it’s about showing up with your marathon family and showing them what you are made of,” she said. “We are a bunch of resilient runners. We love what we do. Nobody is going to take that away from us. It is about us reclaiming our race.”
To reach Robert A. Cronkleton, call 816-234-4261 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter at @cronkb.