The value of authenticity: DUX runner makes good from bad

Written by Gillian Smith
 | Wednesday, 23 April 2014 14:25

When Duxbury resident Dennis Leedom walked away from the finish line of the Boston Marathon last year, he found himself four feet away from the second bomb. When he crossed the finish line this year, he concluded a year of healing and restoring his faith in humanity.

 A spectator at last year’s Marathon, the self-dubbed “marathon buff” was walking down Boylston Street when the first bomb went off. He turned around to see what had happened and seven seconds later the second bomb exploded, sending a significant amount of shrapnel directly into his

right leg. As he stumbled into the Forum restaurant, several people ran to his aid, helping him into an ambulance destined for Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital.

As Leedom lay on the stretcher in the back of the ambulance, a woman sat with him. Before they arrived at the hospital, she leaned over and asked him if he was all right.

“I was in shock, but I told her I thought I was all right,” Leedom said, reflecting on the horrific events of the day. “I thought that if I was as close to the bomb as I was, and I was okay, then everyone else must have been okay too.”

He asked the woman if she was okay and she told him her son had been killed by the bomb. The woman was Denise Richard and her son, eight- year-old Martin, was one of the three fatal victims of the bombing.

“I couldn’t believe she asked me if I was okay before she told me her son had died,” Leedom said. “It was so unselfish; it inspired me to want to give back and honor Martin’s memory.”

Leedom’s injuries includ- ed extensive shrapnel damage to his right leg, the leg clos- est to the bomb. While his leg has now almost completely healed, he still suffers from an extreme case of tinnitus, which is a constant ringing in the ears. His proximity to the bomb increased the impact of the tinnitus, and Leedom said it has been “extremely difficult” dealing with the condition.

Leedom and his brother Tim ran this year’s Marathon with the goal to “Make Good Happen from Bad” in honor of the victims and survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013. Leedom dedicated his run to Martin Richard and his family. “My experience with Denise has been a healing guide and an inspiration on my mission to ‘RIP’ the 2014 Boston Marathon,” Leedom said.

Once he made the decision to run this year’s Marathon, only his second marathon ever and his first Boston Marathon, Leedom focused solely on healing and training. He ran through the pain of healing his right calf, the most severely in- jured part of his leg, and found solace in focusing so intently on finishing the race. While he did not meet his goal of three hours and 45 minutes — the warm weather on Marathon Monday significantly affected his running time — he completed the race in four hours and five minutes and found himself overwhelmingly emo- tional as he crossed the finish line.

"I was on a mission," he said. 

Leedom was struck by the authenticity of the support that the crowd showed the runners and that the runners showed people in the crowd. He said he is proud to have been part of the event and to come from such a strong community.

“The crowds were unbelievable,” he said. “I saw a lot of friends and family along the course, and it gave me the inspiration to keep going. Knowing that there would never be another event like this, and to have been a part of it, was incredible.”

Leedom attended the tribute event at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston on the anniversary of the bombings. The event, which honored the victims, first responders, Boston Athletic Association personnel and volunteers, featured reflections shared by former Mayor Tom Menino, current Mayor Marty Walsh, Governor Deval Patrick and Vice President Joe Biden. While he could not stay for the reception after the ceremony, his wife, Kat, met with Denise Richard afterwards. Denise thanked Kat and Dennis for the support they had shown her, and for a painting of Martin that Dennis had commissioned from a colleague.

“It was an amazing experi- ence,” Leedom said. “One of the many take aways from the event was the authenticity and genuine sentiments shared by all the speakers.”

Leedom, the founder of the Kingston-based company Bern Unlimited, met with Boston police officers a couple of weeks ago, and donated hel- mets to the nearly 100 patrol officers who rode on bikes during the Marathon. He said he was proud to be able to give back to those who had been first responders and upon whom the city of Boston relies to stay safe.

“It was a very emotional year,” he said. “I think a lot of people, including myself, have become better people because of it and I think we can influence others to be better. I think we need to take a step back and think about what Martin said: ‘No more hurting people. Peace.’ Peace is the focal point of humanity and violence is its opposite.”

As he winds down from the Marathon, Leedom said another attempt at hitting his goal is not out of the question, but for now he plans on appreciating being part of the experience.