In his first book since the tragedy, best-selling author Hal Higdon offers a look at the events from the unique vantage point of the runners
No one had a better view of the events of April 15, 2013, than the actual runners participating in the 117th Boston Marathon. That’s the reason Runner’s World contributing editor Hal Higdon views Boston 2013 from the perspective of those running the race. 4:09:43 – Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of the Runners focuses on 75 runners and their individual stories, collected uniquely through social media—blogs posted online, stories offered on Facebook, and e-mails sent to Higdon himself. “What I feel is unique about 4:09:43is that it may be the first book about a major sporting event researched through social media,” he says.
Higdon says the book’s storytellers had been participants in Boston’s most historic marathon, people who were there when the bombs went off and would remember what they were doing when they heard the explosions or heard of the explosions. Among the participants were finished runners back at their hotels, finished runners still working their way through the “land of foods and fluids,” unfinished runners on Boylston Street who both saw and felt the explosions, and unfinished runners blocked from access to what had become a crime scene. “They began to offer their stories, not to reporters but to friends and family through the Internet,” Higdon explains. “Because I have a large presence in cyberspace, those runners soon began to share their stories with me on Facebook, offering links to their blogs on my page. I became a conduit for their first-person stories, many of those stories riveting!”
As the blog links multiplied on Higdon’s page, “Hal Higdon’s Marathon,” he began to visualize what would become 4:09:43, collecting the stories into a smooth-flowing narrative that begins with runners boarding the buses at Boston Common, continues with the wait at the Athletes’ Village in Hopkinton, and flows through eight separate towns. The story does not end until the 23,000 participants encounter the terror on Boylston Street. “I visualized a book that would not merely reprint the stories of 75 runners, it would tell the story as though there were a single, mythical runner with 75 pairs of eyes,” Higdon says. During a career that has seen him publish three dozen books as an author and journalist, including the best-selling Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, Higdon considers 4:09:43 to be his best work.
4:09:43, which refers to the numbers on the finish-line clock when the first bomb exploded, weaves the stories of 75 runners into gripping, yet sensitive narrative that captures both the triumph of marathon running and the tragedy of the bombing.
“Hal Higdon has captured the absolute dichotomy that was the April 15 Boston Marathon, a very real Tale of Two Cities. It was the best of times and the worst of times, from the beautiful and uplifting marathon celebration that Boston is known for to an absolute day of fear, horror, and mayhem. Told through the emotional lens and perspective of actual runners and other witnesses to terror, the heartfelt story of the 117th running is a complex and sometimes contradictory series of emotions and is at once gripping, sensitive, and inspiring. Runners worldwide and all those who love the Boston Marathon will find 4:09:43 a compelling account of the many emotions of the day as well as a meaningful tribute to its greatness.”
Former Executive Director of the Boston Athletic Association
Organizer of the Boston Marathon, 1985 to 2012
“Hal Higdon uses social media and personal correspondence to compile a powerful narrative for the tragic 2013 Boston Marathon. The collection of essays in 4:09:43 is a tribute to a marathon that Higdon knows deeply."
Author of Running in Literature
"Higdon’s account avoids the political sensationalizing of the events of April 15, 2013. Instead, he tells the story of Boston through the eyes of dozens of participants, revealing what the event means to hundreds of thousands of runners and how the explosions of that day burst into this iconic event and experience. Read this book if you love Boston."
Editor in Chief, Running Times
“He’s run Boston 18 times with a PR of 2:21 and best finish of fifth place. He wrote the definitive history about the race, Boston: A Century of Running, as well as countless articles. His training programs have helped thousands of runners qualify for Boston. Now Hal has called on that long lifetime of experience to help us understand the events of the day and the bombing’s aftermath. For runners everywhere it is a must-read.”
Author of Heart Rate Training and Precision Running
“The Boston bombings broke the hearts of runners everywhere but only reinforced their spirit. Through the stories of some who were actually there, Hal Higdon tells how ordinary runners like us have become indomitable examples to the whole world.”
First woman to officially run the Boston Marathon
Longtime TV commentator on the event
Author of Marathon Woman
“Some would like to forget the horror of the 2013 Boston Marathon. However, many more of us would like to celebrate the unflinching runners, medical staff, and community of Boston for the courage and love they showed each other in marathon’s time of greatest need. Hal Higdon’s book 4:09:43 is full of inspiring personal stories that reflect how running’s worst day may also have been its best.”
Boston Marathon Champion
Editor at Large, Runner’s World
“We realize while reading the marathoners’ own words why they will not be stopped by the bombings that took place. It’s simple: Love is stronger than hate.”
Four-Time Boston and NYC Marathon Champion
"I was there on April 15, 2013, a hundred yards beyond the finish line, when the bombs changed an annual ritual of personal achievement into a horror show. But I didn’t see everything there was to see, didn’t understand all the stories of bravery and loss happening on Boylston Street that day. No one person could, which is why this book is so valuable. It’s the closest we can come to having been everywhere on that one terrible, miraculous day."
Host of NPR’s Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me
2013 Boston Marathon Finisher
“I can think of no one better equipped than Hal Higdon to tell this story. It is a story of the special kinship of all of us who have run that final straightaway down Boylston Street toward the finish of the Boston Marathon. And it is the story of how those two explosions were instantly and instinctively felt—from whatever distance we experienced them—to be an attack on all of us. This is an amazing story, skillfully woven together by one of our sport’s great chroniclers.”
Author of Once a Runner
“Hal Higdon in 4:09:43 proves that the Boston Marathon consists of every runner in the race and every spectator along the course—and when you attack even one, you attack all.”
Boston Marathon Race Director