Ken Cohen | Democrat
Paul Matwiow proudly wears his Boston Marathon medal, sent to him by a gracious runner he met prior to the race. It was this spirit of kindness that Matwiow will always remember about the horror-filled day.
Story by Ken Cohen
BOSTON April 26, 2013 Paul Matwiow was 25.5 miles into his fourth Boston Marathon last Monday when suddenly he saw a bottleneck of runners. Police had run across the street stopping anyone from continuing to the finish line.
“My first instinct was that someone had a heart attack,” said the 61-year-old Matwiow, who lives in Damascus but has a counseling business in Callicoon.
While he heard something, he thought the explosion sound was possibly construction or demolition not the deadly bomb blast that ultimately killed three people, injured hundreds and essentially shut down Boston.
For Matwiow, like so many runners who didn’t finish, his memory of the day is not filled with the horror that unfolded in that last mile, but rather with the goodness of people who went the extra mile in the minutes and days following.
“The people, the runners, the city really pulled together,” said Matwiow. “There was so much caring and love. Everyone was checking to see if you were OK.”
Even while they were stopped just a half mile from the finish and just standing around waiting for further direction, Matwiow said runners huddled together to provide warmth and comfort. It was cold, they were tightening up and they had no water or food. Just each other.
Matwiow himself tried to reassure a woman who was running in her very first marathon and was so close to fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“She’s still a winner. She’s a finisher.”
Matwiow said runners not only helped each other, but some who were doctors and medical personnel, tried to get to the blast site to help with the injured.
In particular, Matwiow was overwhelmed by the efforts of a man he met on the bus going to the start of the Boston Marathon. His name was Brendan Stapleton, a young runner from the Boston area. Matwiow said he and Stapleton had “a good chat about running the whole ride.”
When the bus arrived at the start, they wished each other luck and said goodbye, hardly thinking they would have future contact.
A few days after the Marathon, Stapleton tracked down Matwiow (through his bib number on the internet), called him and wanted to know if he was okay. Like Matwiow, Stapleton was also unable to finish the race, about a half-mile short. He told Matwiow on the phone that the Marathon committee was awarding all runners their completion medals, whether they finished the race or not.
Stapleton offered to pick up Matwiow’s medal for him and overnite it. Just like that, earlier this week, Matwiow had his Boston marathon medal.
“He told me at the Marathon headquarters there was a "finish line" at the door to the "medal room,” recalls Matwiow. “He said he crossed it twice once for him and once for me. What generosity and kindness there is in the world!”
For Matwiow, this was his 31st marathon spanning 29 years. He was returning to Boston to commemorate his first run there, 25 years ago. He had qualified in the fall by running a 3:52.25 in the Hamptons Marathon.
“It was just so surreal,” reflected Matwiow. “I stopped into a Subway sandwich shop after the police allowed us to go. It was then that I saw the video on television and my heart just sank. In some ways, it felt just like 9-11.”
Still, Matwiow, like Jeffersonville’s Rianne Erlwein who also ran, insists the day will be remembered for the people of Boston.
“I won’t remember the day with horror and sadness, but rather with all the goodness that was there, both before and after,” said Matwiow. “I was so touched by what Brendan Stapleton did for me and what people were doing for each other.”