At the 2013 Boston Marathon, Lauren Jones (Col ’05) was volunteering with the UVA Club of Boston at the Mile 25 hydration station, passing out cups of water and Gatorade to runners. A photographer, Jones decided to leave a bit early to take pictures of runners as they crossed the finish line.
She was on Massachusetts Avenue, just a few blocks away from the finish line on Boylston Street, when the bombs went off. “There was mass chaos,” Jones says. “Everyone was running away from the site. There were rumors that there were bombs in the T [subway] stations.
Jones found a friend amid the chaos and the two made their way to her apartment. Like many across the city, they took in some shivering runners, letting them rest and warm up. “It’s really interesting to see how Boston came together [after the bombings],” Jones says.
At the Mile 25 station, Thuy Lam (Col ’02), former president of the UVA Club of Boston, was serving as the captain of volunteers. News of the bombing rippled back to the station through panicked phone calls. “It was one of the most difficult and surreal moments I have ever experienced,” Lam says. “I knew that I had to stay calm and relay the information to my volunteers. We had to stay positive and keep the runners hydrated. Within an hour of the blasts, police and military personnel were everywhere. I was proud of the UVaClub of Boston for sticking together and sticking it out until our job was done.”
This year, the UVA Club of Boston returned to Mile 25 to help run the hydration station, just as they have done since 2008. “There was never any hesitancy when it came to this year,” says Jones, who chose to be more involved with the volunteer effort than in years past. This year, she worked as a station lead, regularly checking on all of the volunteers. “Working at the Mile 25 station is really very moving,” she says. “We are literally the last stop before the finish line. To see the different types of people who run the marathon, the elite runners, people in wheelchairs, amputees who are on prosthetic legs … you make a connection with them.”
Lam, who has run two marathons in the past, decided to run the Boston Marathon this year as a part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. “I wanted to run another marathon, and Boston has always been a personal goal of mine,” she says. “I knew that I needed to run this year as a testament of how I love my city and how last year’s tragic events would not mar a beautiful and historic tradition.”
Jones, who moved to Boston in 2012, says she found her home in the city through the UVA Club. “I met Thuy at the very first event, I attended. She took me under her wing.” But it was her first time volunteering at Mile 25 in 2012 that cemented things for her. “Helping the runners with all these people that had a connection to UVA, I remember almost crying because it was so moving,” she says. “It just felt like I was at home.”