A year ago, Eliza Gedney was planning to meet with friends at a local Boston bar to celebrate Patriot’s Day. As she made her way down Boylston Street, she watched the marathon runners closing in on the finish line just a couple of blocks away.
Then the first bomb went off.
“It was 2:49 p.m. when I made my way past the Marathon Sports store and was right at the finish line when the first bomb detonated just a few yards behind me,” says Gedney, who earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business in 2011. “The explosion occurred on the sidewalk right where I had stepped just a few seconds before.”
Gedney, who goes by the nickname Eli, was blown off of her feet. She suffered second and third-degree burns to her ankles and lower legs, and shrapnel wounds from head to toe. Her ear drum ruptured. Dazed and bleeding, she stumbled into a nearby bar, and was quickly taken to a medical tent for treatment before being transported to the hospital.
Three people ultimately lost their lives and an estimated 264 people sustained a variety of injures due to the blasts. Gedney eventually had surgery to remove a BB from underneath her scalp and another to help improve her hearing. She faces a second surgery on her eardrum in May.
“Overall, I was extremely lucky,” she says. “But as my physical wounds have healed, I have found that the most difficult and enduring part of this ordeal has been facing the memories and realities from that day; the post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression that have been ever-present for the past year.”
As the Boston Athletic Association began making plans for the 2014 race, the organization decided to pay tribute to the victims of the blasts by extending two marathon entries to each person injured.
“My initial reaction was, “no way,” says Gedney of receiving the invitation. “In fact, it was during my time at Notre Dame that I was first introduced to running when my friends convinced me to run the famous Holy Half Marathon. After barely making it to the finish line, I swore I would never subject myself to such torture ever again.
“But the more I thought about the 2014 Boston Marathon, the more I realized how big of an honor it was to be invited to run, and it became really hard for me to turn the opportunity down,” she adds. “When my friend Liza agreed to run with me, I finally had the courage to accept my invitation and begin training.”
However, Gedney isn’t running the race as an athletic event, but one with deeper meaning. Together with her friend Liza Smeraldi, they formed Team Za to raise money for the Boston One Fund, which supports and provided aid to all the bombing victims.
Four days before taking their places at the starting line, Gedney and Smeraldi have raised almost $20,000 in just 16 weeks.
As the time ticks down to the start, Gedney says she is nervous and excited.
“I am nervous about the safety of my family and friends, the one million spectators who are expected to attend the race, my fellow survivors, and myself,” she says. “I am not nervous about running the distance. I will remind myself that the pain of running for a few hours is nothing compared to the year of agony many survivors have endured as they have had to re-learn how to walk, undergo surgery after surgery, and mourn the loss of limbs. I am also excited— excited to achieve a goal I have been working hard towards and re-write the memories of last Patriot’s Day.
“But mostly I am grateful—grateful for this opportunity, grateful that I have the ability to run when many others do not, and grateful for all of the support I have received throughout the past year.”
For more information about Team Za, visit http://www.crowdrise.com/LizasPage/fundraiser/lizasmeraldi
Editor's Note: Eliza Gedney finished the 2014 Boston Marathon in 4 hours, 32 minutes. Team Za has raised more than $20,000 for One Fund to date.