By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
Like some 5,000 other runners, Dr. Ronald Dubin did not finish the 117th Annual Boston Marathon in April. But two Sundays ago, he and 34 others did — in Indiana, before the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500.
It was a continuation of one of the world’s most renowned road races, which was tragically cut short at 2:49 p.m. on Monday, April 15.
That was when two explosions shattered the finish of the marathon. Two people died, 264 were injured, and the bombings left the city of Boston — and the nation — stunned, shocked and angered.
Nobody won the shortened marathon at Indy — a symbolic gesture by officials of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — but it brought closure to those who didn’t finish.
Dubin, who practices in Corbin and Middlesboro, was one of those invited by Speedway officials to set foot on the historic auto racing track, affectionately known as “The Brickyard.”
“How I got picked, I have no clue. I guess somebody really likes me because it was a big honor to do it,” Dubin said.
It was a week before the Indy 500 was to race. Dubin got an email asking if he would like to go to Indianapolis to finish where he had left off in New England.
“It was originally the Memorial Day weekend, and I wanted to spend time with my wife and family at home, and on the lake. After the email, they sent me two tickets to the race in Indy,” he said.
As the days raced on towards the weekend, a lot also raced in his mind about making the trip to the Hoosier country. At 2 p.m. on the Saturday before the Indy 500, he, his wife and his son were on a boat on Norris Lake in Tennessee.
The Memorial Day weekend was in full gear. And so was a decision to make.
“We were on the boat and I asked my wife, ‘Sweetheart, I really want to go to this because of the people who were hurt, and what it represents to the people of the country.’ She said, ‘I know you want to.’ And I agreed to go. Since I had two tickets, I asked my son, ‘Do you want to go to the Indy 500?’ And he said, “Sure,” Dubin pointed out.
Later that day, he and his son left Norris Lake and went to Middlesboro, where they caught a plane and flew to Indianapolis. They had to be at the track at 7 a.m. the next day, Sunday.
Both of them made it to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Before the engines revved up and what’s known as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” began, those 35 runners picked up where they left off.
Dubin recalled the moment.
“It was a ceremonial run, about three-fourths of a mile. I was one of the runners carrying the American Flag. We made the fourth turn at the Brickyard. We got a standing ovation from the crowd and they were chanting, ‘U-S-A!’ “U-S-A!’ “U-S-A!’ It was a truly amazing day, and, along with my wedding day and the birth of my children, the most incredible five minutes that I’ve ever experienced in my life. I was really touched to be one of the flag holders in the race,” he said.
When he was running the Boston Marathon in April, the race was stopped after the bombing. He was running the section of the 26.2-mile race in the Boston suburb of Newton, Mass. known as “Heartbreak Hill,” when things went seriously wrong.
“It was going real good, and I was in Newton, on Newton Hill with some other runners. Then we saw police vehicles with their lights flashing, going real fast. Then I saw buses carrying military personnel. I talked to a fellow runner next to me, and I asked him, ‘Why are they going that fast? They’re going 60 miles per hour, and there are runners in the street?’” he said in a Times-Tribune story on April 15.
In the story, Dubin recalled getting a lot of text messages and phone calls asking him if he was aware of what was going on in Boston.
“I first said, ‘Aw, come on, it’s not really happening,’ and he said, ‘No, I think it’s terrorism,’ Then I got other calls about the explosion, and I said to myself, ‘This is for real. This is a marathon. This doesn’t happen,’” he said at the time.
Around 2:45 p.m. that day, Dubin knew the race was cancelled. He and the runners remaining were signaled by an area resident along the race route to go to her house to rest and learn more about the explosions. He and some others were later allowed to return to their hotel in downtown Boston, about two blocks from the explosion site.
This time, Dubin and the others got to finish. And as he described it, the scene was a heart-pounding moment of emotions.
“The police and the military were saluting us. The Indy cars and their drivers were at the side saluting us as well. And you could sense this was bringing a finish and closure to the Boston Marathon that was for the 5,000 people who didn’t finish the race. Our thoughts and prayers were with those who died and were injured at the marathon. The whole time,” Dubin noted.
He added for those who didn’t finish the Boston Marathon, race officials did honor them with a Finisher’s Medal that was sent to them in the mail. Those who did finish the marathon at Indy were not given a finishing time, but they did get congratulated after the race.
After running the race, he said it wouldn’t be his last marathon.
“I’ve decided to do two more marathons this year — in St. George, Utah and Tucson, Arizona. And I will will go back to Boston next year. Absolutely.”