Robert Gomez remember the horrors of that day, but also the strength and resiliency of the running community in the years since.
Robert Gomez runs in the 2018 Boston Marathon. Credit: Courtesy of Robert Gomez

On April 15, 2013, Mary Pardi of Portland and a group of friends sat at the now-closed Cactus Club on 939 Boylston St. in Boston. Pardi had just finished the Boston Marathon in 2:48.42 after running in the elite group of competitors, and she met up with friends and sat by the window to watch passing runners. They were premier seats, thanks to a friend’s connection with the bar’s owner.

Pardi was having a great time watching runners and cheering on her friends as they ran past the bar into the final three-tenths of a mile to the finish line. Then she felt the ground shake.

She didn’t think anything of it until runners began to stop on the course and then turned around.

Two pressure-cooker bombs placed near the finish line had detonated, killing three people and injuring hundreds more. It sent spectators into a panic as people tried to piece together what happened. Pardi learned of the bombs by watching the news on televisions at the Cactus Club before being ushered out.

Mary Pardi, left, finishes the 2017 Beach to Beacon race holding hands with her daughter, Gina. Credit: Courtesy of Mary Pardi

“A couple of us split off and hugged and said, ‘I love you,’” Pardi said. “My friend and I went in a different direction to leave and we ended up at an MIT fraternity party and they charged our phones, made us hamburgers. Then we got in touch with someone and went to Cambridge and then my family came up and got us. After seeing what happened, how close it was, it could have been any one of us.”

Pardi is among the elite Maine runners who competed in the Boston Marathon in 2013 and will be returning to the course on Monday, 10 years after the bombing. Pardi, along with Robert Gomez of Biddeford, remember the horrors of that day, but also the strength and resiliency of the running community in the years since.

Gomez also went off in the first group of runners in 2013 and finished in 2:22.53, good enough for 32nd overall.

When Gomez finished he met up with his parents, who had come down to support their son at the race. Gomez’s parents got on a bus back to Maine and he left to eat lunch at Copley Square. He was able to call his parents after the bombs went off to let them know he was safe before cellphone towers stopped working.

“I remember watching people run out of the Prudential Center thinking that something was wrong with the actual tower,” Gomez said. “After, we started to see ambulances scream through Copley Square trying to get down to Boylston Street. We knew that something had gone terribly wrong but there was really, where we were at, there was no way to know exactly what had happened.”

Gomez said that day and Sept. 11, 2001, are two days he remembers vividly.

Gomez and Pardi qualified for the 2014 Boston Marathon and both decided to run it. They remember tighter security, which has continued through the years, but also a sense of strength in a community that wouldn’t let one day define them.

“It was different,” Pardi said of the 2014 race. “That was a pretty special year because everyone was so emotional in the first one back. We wanted to run it to get back to racing. The bombs, they wanted to scare everybody, so we wanted to prove we weren’t going to let it prohibit racing.”

“I think people were just really happy to be back out on the course, running and not letting that event kind of shut things down,” Gomez added.

Pardi also ran the Boston Marathon in 2015 and will be running this year with her 25-year-old daughter, Gina.

Gina Pardi is running in her second career marathon after running the Sugarloaf Marathon last year. She’s excited to take in the atmosphere and run with her mother in the second group of runners.

“I am just looking forward to the energy of the course,” Gina Pardi said. “I ran my first marathon last year at Sugarloaf and the crowd was desolate. I am looking forward to being there in the environment and am excited to have people there. I’ll have a lot of friends in Boston that will be there to support it.”

In 2013, Pardi was a freshman at Falmouth and would routinely track where her mom was in races.

“She finished earlier in the day and then I remember seeing on Twitter that a bomb had gone off,” Gina Pardi said. “When you hear the word ‘bomb,’ you don’t know how big it was, and there were no details coming out and I couldn’t get in contact. We had no idea what was going on. It was one of the scariest things. I was 15 so I had never experienced anything like that before.”

They reunited later in the day. Now, both will run together Monday.

“It’s going to be great,” Mary Pardi said. “I am putting Gina through the whole Boston thing. It’ll be fun. My last 10 years I’ve been in the elite field so this will be a little different.”

“She’s pretty fast and so she’s going to go easy on me and run with me,” Gina Pardi added. “I am excited about that and hopefully it goes by faster.”

Gomez is also ready to run in his seventh Boston Marathon. He thinks the 2013 race has made the running community stronger.

“It’s not lost on me the number of people that 2013 impacted and the number of people that continue year after year to carry on the spirit of ‘Boston Strong’ and are able to keep this race going,” Gomez said.

“It’s such a premier race and it really does a lot to bring the running community together. I’m just so thankful that the events of 2013 have not hampered that. In fact, I believe it’s made the running community stronger as a result, which is just a wonderful outcome.”

Adam Robinson is a native of Auburn, Maine, and graduate of Husson University and Edward Little High School. He enjoys sports, going on runs and video games.