Patriots' Day

Michael Maillis finished the 2013 Boston Marathon less than an hour before the first bomb went off

Published in 2024 Kentucky Super Lawyers magazine

By Michael Maillis on December 28, 2023


I remember my excitement that day. It seemed like nearly perfect running weather. At 44, I was in the best shape of my life, regularly running marathons between three hours and 10 minutes and three hours and 30 minutes, with an occasional slower day thrown in when I piled on four marathons in two months’ time in the spring and fall. I was wearing a moisture-wicking shirt with my firm’s name on it.

The race started, and it had its usual beauty: You pass the bar of bikers early in the race to your left; then about halfway, you pass to your right the women from Wellesley College, offering hugs and kisses to all the runners, or a hand slap. They are all screaming and cheering you on like you were lifelong friends. You pass from city to city on your way toward Boston. It’s a state holiday, Patriots’ Day, and many people have the day off. The people of Boston love this marathon; they line the streets at every mile, cheering for you.

These are expert crowds.

I felt pretty good that day. I was running about 7-minute-40-second miles most of the race, up or down depending on the incline. Then I saw the Boston Red Sox sign and knew I had only a couple more miles to go. I finished in three hours, 19 minutes and 28 seconds. It was a good time and qualified me to come back again next year. I was very happy.

I walked through the crowds at the finish, as far away as I could, and I hailed a cab back to my hotel. On the way, my cousin and colleague Nomiki Tsarnas called and told me about the bomb. I told the cab driver to turn around and went back to find my friends, getting as close to the area as I could. I made sure my friends were OK, then went back to the hotel and on to the airport, where the bombing seemed to be on every TV.

The airport that day was so very different from the way it normally was. The Boston airport experience after a marathon was always unique. Unlike most marathons, in Boston it always seemed like runners took over the airport. We were everywhere, meeting for a second, a minute, or an hour and talking about running. How many marathons have you run? Where are you from? What is your best time? How did you do today? Tough out there, huh? That was the nerding-out runners did at the airport, and we all loved it. It was part of the lure of the Boston Marathon, the fact that for an entire weekend, the runners were the toast of the town. My first Boston Marathon was in 2008. Then 2009, 2011, and now 2013.

But that day, I remember entering the airport, where all the runners as usual were wearing this year’s marathon jackets (a Boston tradition) with medals around their necks. But nobody was asking about marathoning. We just looked at each other and nodded, tears welling. Most of us had friends still running when that bomb went off, and we didn’t know how they had fared. I tried to call my family, but cell service had been cut. I posted a request on my Facebook page for people to call my wife and tell her I was OK. We all sat in silence at the airport, heads down, waiting for our planes. When I got to the Pittsburgh airport, I slowly made my way to my car and drove home.

I am from Youngstown, Ohio, and apparently I was the first person from Youngstown or Mahoning County to arrive from the Boston Marathon. I got home, left my car, and suddenly, out of the darkness—it seemed out of my bushes—a reporter appeared, and a camera shone bright light on my face. “Mr. Maillis, can we interview you?” I agreed, but don’t remember the conversation. As soon as my wife heard the garage door opening, she ran straight into my arms and hugged me. Someone took a picture of that moment and it was posted on the internet, where it received thousands of likes.

I promised myself I would go back for the 2014 Boston Marathon. I had qualified, and I needed to do it one more time. But that day, I had mostly lost my love of running. My training for 2014 was lazy. I put on about 15 pounds. But I showed up and ran. I don’t remember my time, but it was somewhere around four hours and 30 minutes.

I think that was the next-to-last marathon I would ever run. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Recently, I’ve been thinking about starting again. But probably not. 

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