Running the Boston Marathon had been a lifelong dream of El Dorado Hills resident Amy Dolley.
“Seventeen years ago when I married my husband, Craig, we planned to leave straight from our April wedding for the marathon,” she said. “But it never happened.”
This year, she finally fulfilled that dream. Dolley, 46, qualified to run the nation’s most prestigious marathon, while Craig and the eldest of their three children, Sarah, 14, an eighth grader at Marina Village Middle School, came to cheer her on.
Dolley, an avid long distance runner, and owner of Henny Penny preschool, said the 26.2-mile course was the most difficult she’s ever done. She passed the finish line on Boylston Street three minutes before the first bomb exploded. “Seconds before it happened, my legs were wobbly. I was hunched over, still trying to get my breath, and people were handing me my medal, water, and food,” she said.
The explosion, a mere 50 feet from where she stood, was “like a cannon going off in your ear,” said Dolley. “Then there was this surreal calm. Everything was eerily quiet before the commotion started.” She overheard someone say a manhole cover had blown and another said a garbage truck had crashed.
As Dolley looked for her husband and daughter, first responders ran toward, and then past, her and police yelled, “Get out!”
Craig Dolley and their daughter, Sarah, were two blocks away when the thunderous sound was heard, still making their way to the finish line to meet Amy. By chance, they weren’t standing where so many spectators were killed and injured because the crowds there were 15 people deep.
“I saw my family at mile 17, and then they had to take a train to get to mile 26,” recounted Dolley. “By the time they got to the end they thought they’d miss me crossing the finish line if they tried to squeeze into the spectator area at the finish line.” The what-ifs are still what leave her shaken.
“As soon as I saw Craig, I lost it,” said Dolley. “They had no idea what was going on. He thought I was crying from exhaustion, and I was trying not to scare my daughter.”
Amy just kept repeating, “Let’s go, let’s go,” and despite her wobbly legs, her first reaction was to keep running. And they did, until they got to China Town, more than a mile from the scene.
They collapsed at a hotel and called the friends they were staying with who lived just outside of Boston. Because of bridge closures, etc., they reunited hours later.
Is Amy Dolley angry that her dream trip to the Boston Marathon was marred? “As far as the race itself, it’s irrelevant now,” she said. “I would actually still love to run it again someday, but for now I’m just sad; there’s a hole in my heart. If I was at home watching the news I’d probably be as angry as most people. But I’m just shocked, and still very sad.”