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Attorneys in Boston Marathon show how commitment, endurance overcomes tragedy

Each of these attorneys had very personal reasons for taking part in the 2014 Boston Marathon, particularly after the deadly attacks which took place last year at the race’s finish line

Jack Marvin, partner at Stinson Leonard Street, and participant in the Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon this year represented a lot more than just another race. It was a testament to the determination of runners and fans, that despite last year’s deadly attacks, a Boston tradition will continue. 

Among those taking part were attorneys from throughout the United States. One was Jack C. Marvin, a partner at Stinson Leonard Street, a law firm in Wichita, Kansas. He ran the Boston Marathon last year. It was his sixth time running the marathon and he finished the race. Afterward, he went into the medical tent for cramping.  He declined medical treatment, as he just wanted to get back to his hotel room. 

“As I left the medical tent, I went to retrieve my sweats from a bus near the finish line,” he recalled in an interview this week with InsideCounsel. “While talking to another runner, I heard a huge explosion and looked up and saw a tall plume of smoke. I then heard the second explosion and some screaming. At that point I was still not sure what had happened.”

He has a standing agreement with his wife to always meet in the hotel room after the race if they cannot find each other. “I ran back to the room, and thankfully she was there. She had walked by the site of the explosion several times that day. We had the TV on as they broadcast news reports with stories about what happened,” he recalled. “Our phones then began to light up with text messages from friends and family asking if we were okay. That evening the city was on lockdown and we stayed by the hotel and talked with other runners.” 

He wanted to run again this year. Last September, he signed up for the Boston Marathon as a way “to honor the victims and make a stand on behalf of the running community.” But when he began training in January, his knee, which has been twice surgically repaired, started to act up. He stopped training. He was considering dropping out of the race. Would he go to Boston this year?

“Approximately 30 days before the race I decided I was going to go back to Boston, even if I had to crawl across the finish line,” he said. “With four weeks of training, rather than the usual 16 weeks, my wife and I went back. It was an emotional day, but a great one. The crowds and runners were totally committed to reclaiming the race. Despite my slowest time ever (3:56) I limped across the finish line and put Boston #7 in the books.”

He expects to have knee surgery in about two weeks. But for now his motto is “Boston Strong!”

Another runner who was at last year’s Boston Marathon was Byrne Decker, an attorney with Pierce Atwood in Portland, Maine, where he concentrates on defense work that relates to ERISA, life, health and disability cases. In 2013, he was at the finish line with his son Ben watching the elite runners complete the marathon. They left to visit a college in western Massachusetts. It was fortunate they did. About 90 minutes to two hours later the explosions took place.

“It turned out we were standing right between the two blasts,” he said.

Given what had happened, he decided to run the marathon again this year. It was 2007 when he last ran it, and it has been one of many he ran since he did his first marathon while a student at American University law school.

This year in Boston, he did exceptionally well. His finish time was 2:33:36. He actually placed third of all male runners between the ages of 45 and 49. 

“I wanted to do it right,” Decker said. “I tried to run the best race I could.” 

His son Ben and some of the rest of his family were at the finish line – and they cheered for him as he completed the race. He said he has tried to raise his children with the values of giving something their all—and that is what he did during the race. Ben, now a senior and honored scholar-athlete at Yarmouth High School, will no doubt follow his dad’s example, when he attends Williams College in the fall, where he expects to be running competitively. 

Looking back, this year’s marathon came off wonderfully – for the runners and for the fans, Decker said. For instance, he said the security was intense, but still unobtrusive.

“It was an incredible statement – the resolve of the people of Boston and New England,” Decker said. “It came about just flawlessly from every perspective.”

In addition, David Yon was one of about 20 runners from Tallahassee, Fla., at the marathon. An attorney at Radey Thomas Yon & Clark, where he handles regulatory matters, business transactions and litigation, he recalled last year’s tragedy – which he watched from home on television. 

“I was watching with everybody else and [decided] ‘Hey, I got to go back,’” Yon said. He has run the Boston Marathon about 10 times, the first time being in 1986. 

This year, he finished the marathon in 3:29.02. “My goal was to try to get under 3:30. I made it, so I was happy about that,” he said. Yon said he has been dealing with some hamstring injuries – so at times it was a struggle, especially at locations such as Heartbreak Hill and Mile 23.

“The hills were tough,” he confirmed.

But it was worth the effort. “It was a terrific experience,” he said. “It was quite a tribute to the city of Boston and to the people there…. This year, it was like someone tried to take something important away from them. That wasn’t going to happen.” 

“Runners are a pretty stubborn group and independent group,” Yon added. “They wanted to preserve and protect something that’s valuable to them.”

For Carolyn Riggs, a Boston-based attorney, this year’s Boston Marathon was the first one she ever ran. She came in with a time of 4:24. “I finished,” she said on Tuesday. “For a first marathon, that’s not bad.” 

Riggs, who specializes in corporate defense litigation at Campbell Trial Lawyers, is no stranger to competitive sports. She has been playing soccer since she was three, and was a recognized standout player while growing up in Indianapolis, Ind., and then again at Duke, where she was a forward on the varsity soccer team. She so excelled on the soccer field, that upon her graduation from college she had captured the record of being the fifth all-time leading scorer in Duke women’s soccer team history.

But she only came to competitive running recently. Her former coach at Duke, Robbie Church, an ACC icon, joked with her when he first heard she was going to do the Boston Marathon this year. He gently reminded her how she was not a fan of some of the endurance training he had put Riggs and her teammates through back in college.

But he also was a source of great strength to her, and wished her all the best in texts sent during the morning of the race.

Still, the race was a challenge for her. On the last part of Heartbreak Hill through Newton, she was straining to get up the course. She was getting tired. There was pain, too.

Then she saw Dick Hoyt and his son, Rick, as part of Team Hoyt. Dick Hoyt was pushing his son, who is in a customized wheelchair, as the father-son team ran their 32nd Boston Marathon. Rick was born with cerebral palsy, and he is unable to walk, but he really enjoys marathons. 

It was one of many times during the marathon Riggs felt tears, especially given everything the father-son team has overcome. She said to herself, they have gone through the marathon, and made it, and it gave her inspiration to finish. 

She high-fived several of the members of Team Hoyt and kept on running.

“It was so moving,” she recalled on Tuesday. “To have connected with them on my 26 miles was really special.” 

She was further encouraged as fans cheered her on as she ran past Fenway. 

What did Monday’s marathon mean for Riggs? 

“We can overcome difficult times,” Riggs said. “It’s a sense of resilience…. It makes us even stronger.” 

“It was a proud day for Boston,” she added, “… a proud day for runners.” 

One of the most important memories for her was not just the race, but the money she was able to raise in connection with her running. She raised over $10,000 for the One Fund Team – which was formed to help the victims and families most affected by the explosions last year. 

Among those who donated were friends, relatives and fellow alumni of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. 

“All of us at the law school are proud of Carolyn,” IU McKinney Dean Andy Klein said in a statement earlier this year about his former torts student. “I’m not at all surprised that she’s aligned herself with this cause in her new home city.” 

There was a competition to be selected for The One Fund team. Some 50 runners were selected to represent the survivors of the 2013 marathon. The team was made up of runners of every level of experience, and like Riggs they were selected based on essays they wrote relating personal stories about how they had been impacted by the 2013 tragedy.

As for future marathons, she wants her blisters to heal a bit before for she decides whether to start training. But her competitive spirit and commitment to excellence will serve her well as she soon begins a new job at Manion Gaynor & Manning in Boston.

Contributing Author

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Ed Silverstein

Ed Silverstein is a veteran writer and editor for magazines, websites and newspapers. A graduate of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, he has won several...

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