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Boston strong
Covington marathon runners make return to Boston
Local Covington runners Brent Fields and Tracy Ashall will return to Boston this weekend for the 118th Annual Boston Marathon on Monday. Fields and Ashall participated in the marathon last year, experiencing the tragedy of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing first hand. - photo by submitted photo /The Covington News

Boston Marathon Race Day Information

• Race Day: Monday, April 21
• Television: Broadcast live nationally on Universal Sports Network
• Internet: Live race feed can be viewed at
• Race Start: 8:50 a.m.

In times of tragedy, the United States has the unique ability to blend sports and American resolve.

When sport becomes a casualty of tragedy, that resolve grows to new levels, bringing together people across the country for a common cause.

America’s resiliency was tested last spring at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon when a pair of bombs exploded at the race’s finish line, killing three spectators while maiming 264 others.

As frantic racers, onlookers, paramedics and police forces rushed to help those impacted by the blast, a pair of Newton County long distance runners found out first-hand what American resolve can do.

Those two athletes will have a chance to relive the courage displayed by the city of Boston and its race runners again tomorrow, as they return to the race that has become the embodiment of sport’s bravery, fortitude and valor.

“A celebration”

Covington runner Brent Fields is no stranger to long-distance running.

A marathon regular, Fields knew the significance running in the Boston Marathon held to American runners.

As the world’s oldest annual marathon, established in 1897, Fields knew that one day he’d tackle the famous track from its start at Hopkinton to its famous hilly Newton stretch to the finish line in the heart of the city.

“The marathon itself is just amazing,” Fields said. “There’s really nothing like it. The city embraces it so much. Runners are treated like heroes just for participating in it and during the race there are times you can’t hear yourself think. The crowd is just so loud.

“The only thing I think I can compare it to would be hitting a home run to win the World Series – it’s just that loud,” he said.

Fields said the 26.1-mile race is a mental test, one that lulls a runner in before asking them to put forth whatever they have left in the take over the last 10 miles.

“When you run it, the first 15 or so miles are actually downhill, so you think it’s not too bad,” Fields said. “Then you hit a stretch called the Hills of Newton – the hills aren't really that bad, but it’s when they show up in the race. When they show up, you are starting to feel fatigued and then you hit the hills.

“It’s a monster to overcome,” he said. “You have to be mentally prepared to deal with it.”

After surviving “Heartbreak Hill,” Fields said that runners are almost carried in by the crowd over the final two miles.

“There is nothing like the end of the race,” he said. “The crowd rides you in and carries you the final part of the race. There are so many people there that are genuinely happy that you’re running the race and representing the city.”

International perspective

Tracey Ashall, a Covington YMCA personal trainer and fellow Covington long distance runner, echoed Fields’ sentiments.

Ashall was also at the Boston Marathon last season, experiencing the race for the first time.

Ashall’s experience mirrored much of Fields’ journey, but hers has a different twist. As a native of England, Ashall didn’t comprehend the significance of the Boston race, but decided to give the race a shot after qualifying in 2012.

“I’d started running cross country at the age of 9, but I had gotten out of it later into adulthood,” Ashall said. “When I was 30, I got back into it and decided that I wanted to run a marathon.”

Ashall competed in a marathon in New York City before qualifying for the Boston Marathon two years ago at an event in New Orleans.

“In New Orleans, I managed to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but I didn’t realize how important it was,” Ashall said. “Being from England, the London race was always our big race. After I realized what I’d done, I was really happy and decided if I qualified, I was going to run it.”

“In a moment, it’s chaos”

With race plans set, both Fields and Ashall completed the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Luckily for Fields and Ashall, their races were complete before the bombs went off at 2:49 p.m., but that doesn’t mean that neither felt the repercussions of the terrorist attack.

“After I finished the race, I called a taxi and went back to my hotel,” Fields said. “I got out of my taxi, went to my hotel room and changed out of my race gear. After that, I was on my way to catch a train to meet my parents across town.

“That’s when I got a call,” he said.

Fields’ sister, Ginger, reached him first.

“She asked if I was alright and I was confused,” Fields said. “I was already in la la land. After a race when you’re coming down, you have this peace over you and you’re just so tired. A strong wind could knock you over. There’s a lot to absorb in the moment, so I didn’t understand what she was asking.

“Then she said there was an explosion,” he said. “I had no idea.”

Fields’ phone kept ringing – friends, family and fellow runners all dialed his number, checking in on their linking to the bombing while Fields still tried to piece the moment together.”

“I still had to try to make it across town to try to find my family, but all I could think about was the people at the finish line,” Fields said. “It got difficult because I remember the people there – a young father and his little girl who was maybe 3 years old in a pink Red Sox hoodie, were they OK? The medical staff and volunteers that gave us a high five as I finished, were they OK?

“There were so many people there to celebrate and in a moment, it’s chaos.”

Fields was able to make it across town and to his family. They were safe, but Fields was still shaken up.

“We were just there at the finish line an hour before the bombs went off,” he said. “It shook me up. Why would someone want to do that? What was the payoff? What was the gain? It’s still incomprehensible to me.”

“Did that really happen?”

For Ashall, the marathon marked a personal best time. Ashall put in 3:29.51, but her post-race celebration was short lived.

“I had also already finished and I was with my husband, running partner and a friend when the bombings happened,” Ashall said. “At first, we just thought it was construction. We didn’t know immediately that something had happened. I went and changed and that’s when I found out what happened.

“Everything was in slow motion,” she said. “It didn’t really sink in. We ended up in a coffee shop and stayed there while things were initially being sorted out. That’s when it sunk in and I thought, ‘Oh my God; did this really happen?”

Ashall received the same outpouring from friends, but still struggled with the aftermath.

“That could have been me standing there,” Ashall said. “There are no words to explain it - just shock. I can’t grasp why two people would want to do such an evil deed.”

“Grateful to be able to run”

After the explosion, Fields struggled to find out what happened at the site. Despite the despair, Fields said he found hope in the marathon’s response.

“With the explosion, everything went crazy,” Fields said. “Despite that, everyone responded immediately. I still get goose bumps thinking about it. People responded so quickly and instead of turning away, people ran to the blast for help.

“There’s no bigger event in the running community than the Boston Marathon,” he said. “Past runners and future runners came together in a moment to help their fellow runners. There was a surreal aurora around the entire scene.”

After everything was sorted out, Fields returned home later that week. Reflecting on what he had just experienced, Fields did like any runner would – he took to the road.

“I went running later that week and I was just grateful to be able to run,” he said. “Not only did people lose their life, but people were maimed and injured for life. They had their abilities taken away through no fault of their own. It didn’t make any sense to me that it happened.”

Fields knew his body needed to recover after the race, but he was ready to run again and made a promise to himself that he would return to Boston again.

“The President gave a speech to the city after the bombing happened,” Fields said. “Now, no matter how you feel about him, the man can give a speech. I was so jacked up after hearing him talk that I wanted to get back to Boston right then. I wanted to go back.”

“Finish what we started”

For Ashall, the impact of the bombing had the same effect.

“Before the bombing, I hadn’t planned on going back to Boston,” she said. “But, after what happened last year, this year is for redemption.”

Ashall said that the response from the race participants after the bombing was nothing short of “extraordinary.”

“It was so amazing how those runners reacted so quickly and compassionately when the bombing took place,” Ashall said. “Your body is just so depleted after a race, but they rushed to help out any way they could. Many gave blood after just running a marathon – that was amazing.”

Ashall recalled the stories of the Boston Marathon bombing victims while still trying to empathize with what those on the scene went through.

“This whole past year I’ve read and heard stories about what people went through,” she said. “The survivors of the attack – your heart just bleeds for those people.”

While last year's race was run just for the experience, Ashall said this year she’s running for something more important.

“We (my running partner) and I want to go back and finish off what we started,” Ashall said. “I’m running for so many different things – both for supporting the other runners and for personal reasons. We want to celebrate, honor and have a chance to enjoy what we went out there and did a year ago.”

“We don’t get scared, we get pissed”

Fields will also be joining Ashall at the 2014 Boston Marathon. His motivation comes not only from wanting to run a great race, but digs deeper.

“It’s a part of American resiliency,” Fields said. “I felt like I had to go back this year and put on a good show and show support. I just feel like I should.”

Fields has planned through the expenses, trained for months and is ready to get back on the course.

“The way the running community and the city of Boston have responded speaks for our country,” he said. “When terrorists strike, we don’t get scared, we get pissed.

“It’s going to be an incredible event, especially this year,” he said. “It’s going to be something the city of Boston, and our country, will be proud of.”

The 2014 Boston Marathon will begin Monday 8:50 a.m., with elite runner’s waves starting at 9:32 a.m. The race will be broadcasted live on Universal Sports Network and online at