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Panter ready for ‘nervous’ run a year after Marathon bombing

Gainesville woman stays in touch with tragedy’s survivors

POSTED: April 20, 2014 12:30 a.m.

Avid runner Theresa Panter will be running in the Boston Marathon again this year as she is making the trip with her husband, Dr. Allan Panter, who ended up helping bombing victims last year.

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For his part, Dr. Allan Panter couldn’t say whether his wife, Theresa, should run in this year’s Boston Marathon — as he’s not the one logging the miles by foot.

But mentally, he had another take altogether.

“I told her, ‘You have to do it again,’” Panter said. “I look at it as if you don’t, then the terrorists — or whatever you want to call them — have won.”

The Gainesville couple took some time on a rainy Friday night, the eve of their early Saturday departure for Boston, to speak about their upcoming trip and reflect on the year since a pair of homemade bombs planted near the finish line killed three and wounded more than 260 others last April 15.

Theresa was nearing the end of the 26-mile run, with Allan waiting in a throng of spectators, when the blast turned a jubilant atmosphere into chaos.

Immediately, she and other runners were whisked away from the course by officials, while Allan went into emergency-room-doctor mode and began tending to blast victims. The injuries were horrifying, with one of the victims dying as he tried to help.

And all this was happening as Allan and Theresa didn’t know the fate of each other.

“I was just trusting God and treating the person in front of me,” Allan said.

The memories from that dark day returned anew last week, as the bombing anniversary was observed and the couple wrapped up preparations — including some last-minute training — for Theresa’s run in Monday’s marathon.

“Allan and I both realized how lucky we were,” Theresa said, looking back on the day. “Two feet to the left and he would have been affected severely. And I’m blessed, too. I wasn’t at the finish line and didn’t get affected like some of the people we’re going to meet this weekend.

“When you think back on the events of last year, we’re just humbled by God’s grace on us, and then we’re hopefully giving him credit on a daily basis.”

Allan said the events also have made him feel similarly blessed.

“The real sadness is the people who have had to make adjustments in their life,” he said.

“As far as affecting me personally, I just stay busy and move on. I’m kind of in awe of the progress (the victims) have made, and I’m just thankful I’m not facing those challenges — I don’t think I could live up to them.”

For Theresa, 53, and Allan, 57, there was some question as to whether last year’s marathon was going to be Theresa’s last. At that point, she had completed nearly a dozen since 1999, but age was creeping up and life was getting busier.

The 26 miles aren’t easy and they’re punctuated “at the wrong time” by a 1-mile uphill stretch at mile 23, Theresa said.

By that point in the race, many runners are struggling to trudge on. And as they reach the final push on Boylston Street, some are gasping or collapsing with cramps even as spectators are cheering them on.

This time around, some of the same emotions about physical readiness are resurfacing.

“Reality and age have hit, so I’m a little bit nervous,” she said. “Mentally, the training has been a little bit hard. I’ve had a mental block about even wanting to get out there and run the 20 miles it takes to train.”

Theresa has run other marathons — this week’s in Boston will be her 60th — but she shied away from them after Boston.

“I didn’t book one, I didn’t want to do it and I just kind of put it off,” she said.

Her parents are nervous about her running in Boston and two of her children have pleaded with her not to return, Theresa said.

“I was fine (about it) until Wednesday,” she said. “Now, I’ve got a lump in my throat and I’m a little nervous.”

Both Panters know the environment will be different this year, especially with security.

Theresa said she has gotten an email from race officials telling her what she could bring to the race.

“This year, we bring ourselves and then whatever can fit in a belt around your waist,” she said.

Spectators will have restrictions, too, Theresa said.

“The finish line, I’m sure, will be really monitored,” she said. “If Allan is going to stand anywhere, that’ll be the safest place.”

She said jokingly that she was trying to “bribe him” with Dunkin’ Donuts, an especially popular chain in Boston, “to stay in the hotel room and I’ll just tell him when I’m done — but that’s not happening.”

“This year will be different,” Theresa added, with confidence. “Just get this old lady there.”

The couple said they would try to relax during their stay. But their time might turn somber once they see Jeff Bauman, one of the tragedy’s most recognizable faces.

He lost both of his legs in the bombing — he was treated at the scene for a while by Allan — and went through rigorous rehabilitation.

Bauman has written a book, “Stronger,” which mentions Allan Panter. And a group has been formed, “Team Bauman,” which Theresa is part of, in an effort to benefit Challenged Athletes Foundation and Wiggle Your Toes Foundation.

And Theresa has kept in touch with another survivor, texting back and forth.

“Surely I can run this race with no problem, considering what they’re having to do on a daily basis,” she said.

“Being on this team, I’m blessed, because it gives me a purpose — not to run just for myself, but to run for a cause,” Theresa said. “You can always run to get better — I don’t think that’s going to happen at my age — but this gives me a purpose.”

Last year’s actions by Allan — and of course, by extension, Theresa — thrust them into the national spotlight, as they literally found themselves moving from one interview to the next. They spent a few moments recalling, with some laughter, how competing news organizations fought over them for pecking order of interviews.

The media attention has resurfaced again this year. But, for Theresa, what the couple wants to say is a little different.

“I think, now, if we get a media chance, it’s just to promote the foundations, how great Boston has been to us, what a struggle these survivors have on a daily basis and how lucky we are,” she said.


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