North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

April 17, 2013

Updated: Shawn Hazelrig's Boston Marathon run cut short by bombing

By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News

HAYDEN — Shawn Hazelrig of Hayden was celebrating two big events in her life on Monday: turning 40 and running in the Boston Marathon, the most prestigious long-distance race in America.

But by the end of the day, both of those milestones took a back seat to the events that unfolded at the finish line of the race.

Two bombs detonated in Copley Square, the marathon’s traditional finishing point. As of Tuesday afternoon, the blasts had claimed three lives, including that of an 8-year-old boy. More than 170 others were injured, with several losing limbs.

The incident was the focus of the world’s attention on Monday afternoon, even as Hazelrig was making her way toward the finish line of a race that she would ultimately not complete.

“At mile 21 or 22, I heard a spectator on his cell phone say that there had been an explosion at the finish line,” she said. “There was a huge presence of police and military for the race anyway, but as I ran, I noticed a change — they were no longer focused on or encouraging the runners, but their backs were to them and focused on the surroundings.”

Hazelrig made it to the 40 kilometer (25 mile) mark, according to the Boston Athletic Association’s automated scoring system. That’s a little more than a mile away from the finish, and close to where her cheering section was located.

“At one point we had 10 or 20 policemen on bicycles going alongside, then I noticed helicopters hovering nearby,” she said. “When I got to my cheering section, they confirmed that the news was true and that the race was being re-routed. I continued to about mile 25-1/2, and the runners just stopped, and they said it was over. There was no alternate finish.”

By that time the original route was blocked off as first responders tended to victims. Hazelrig turned around and went back to her cheering section, but her friends had left.

Even as chaos unfolded not far away, Hazelrig was still at peace, largely thanks to the prayers of her supporters.

“I had people praying for me for specific miles, and I carried prayer cards with me,” Hazelrig said. “The only time I felt panic was when I went back to the cheer zone, and the streets had been cleared and my family was no longer there. I didn’t know where they were, and I found them just by sheer prayer, in a particular hotel that was locked down.”

Unlike competitive runners who must qualify for the marathon, Hazelrig was running with a charity group to raise money for awareness of multiple myeloma, a cancer which affects plasma cells in the blood. It’s a disease which affects her mother-in-law, Becky Hazelrig, and also well-known contemporary Christian musician Carman Licciardello. Becky Hazelrig, who lives in Locust Fork, was diagnosed with the disease four years ago.

It’s not the first time Shawn Hazelrig has done something big to support Becky.

“The Lord led me to do something I would never, ever choose to do in a million years — shave my head,” she said. “I did it so when people asked me about it, I could tell them about her and her commitment to Christ.”

Through her family and friends at Locust Fork Baptist Church, Hazelrig had raised about $7,900 to run with the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation Power Team. She was one of 10 runners selected for the team.

Hazelrig and her husband, Scotty, plan to return home later this week.