During any other marathon, Bev Holtzer might have been crossing the finish line with a time of four hours, ten minutes.
But six miles into this year’s Boston Marathon, her quads cramped up and slowed her down. That twist of fate might have saved her life.
Holtzer, a fourth-grade teacher at Gold Rush Elementary School in Parker, had just crossed the 25-mile marker when the homemade explosives detonated, killing three and injuring more than 200 others on April 15.
“I just saw runners turning around and running towards all of us, saying ‘the race is canceled,’” she said.
She found out from a spectator that explosions were reported along the course up ahead. It was 45 minutes later that Holtzer was able to borrow someone’s phone to send a text message to let her husband and daughter know she was OK. They were in the crowd and, if not for her slower-than-normal pace, would have been near the finish line four hours and nine minutes after the start of the race, when the bombs went off.
Outside of the heartbreak and fear triggered by the terrorist attack, Holtzer was disheartened by the fact that she was less than one mile away from completing the Boston Marathon in her first attempt. The 58-year-old felt robbed of the glory of finishing the storied race and scribbled a defiant, refuse-to-give-up message on a pair of napkins during the flight home to Colorado.
Holtzer was greeted by hugs and tears upon her return to Gold Rush Elementary. And soon, a plan was devised by her students and the faculty to help her accomplish the unachieved goal. They staged the “One More Mile” event April 25 and ran alongside the beloved teacher as she completed the final mile of her journey. Holtzer was humbled by the gesture, which she says reflects the Gold Rush community’s supportive nature.
“I thought it would just be the fourth-grade classes out there. Well, I walked out and there is the whole school chanting my name,” she said. “They had cow bells, posters, they were cheering. I got a little teary-eyed.”
She still has a “nagging” desire to participate in the Boston Marathon next year to take care of some unfinished business. No matter how great the pain, Holtzer was able to complete all nine of her previous marathons. Organizers are still trying to decide whether to give the go-ahead for the 2014 Boston Marathon.
The Gold Rush event in her honor, however, was gratifying and served as a lesson in perseverance for the kids. It also taught them to support others in a time of need.
“I was really relieved crossing the finish line. I felt it was such a positive stamp on something that was so negative a week before,” she said. “It shows the kids that a goal might not always end how we want, but there’s always a plan B.”
Holtzer has reflected on her turn of fortune in the form of atypical leg cramps. She is not a religious person, but considers herself spiritual and believes “there is a reason why that happened.”