OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Dr. Scott Willson slips away from his office and hits one of the many trails that wind through southern Johnson County. He’s an avid runner with 105 marathons under his belt. His training schedule racks up about 70 miles a week.
“I think a lot about what's going on in the world, what's going on in my life,” he said before taking off.
That leaves a lot of time to reflect on where he's going and where he's been. Next week, Willson, who specializes in cosmetic and anti-aging medicine, will run his 15th consecutive Boston marathon-- his 22nd overall. He missed the 1999 marathon to take his medical school entrance exam, but nothing will keep him away this year.
On April 15, 2013, Willson crossed the finish line about an hour and a half before two pressure cooker bombs brought the event to a deadly halt. In previous years, he always hung around once he finished. But last year something nudged him to get out of there.
“Last year, I got my bag and I had one of those space blankets around me. And I went straight to the hotel. Had to get out of there. And I can't explain why,” he said.
In fact, from the time he arrived in Boston last year, Willson could not shake an anxious, nagging feeling.
“It was weird, weird, strange,” he said. “It’s not something I could ever put my finger on.”
Whatever it was, it got Willson out of the bombing area. It was the same area where in 2012, his wife spent the day at the finish line and they later ate at the cafe near the second blast.
“So when I thought about where the bombs went off, it hit me very personally,” he said.
After Willson returned to his hotel, his cell phone came to life with calls and messages from family and friends. That was the first he heard of the bombings. For the next six hours, they remained locked in their rooms.
“There was virtually no one,” Willson said. “You could look out of our hotel room and you could see the streets were deserted. And if there were any cars on the street, they were SWAT team cars.”
Now as he trains for next week's Boston marathon, Willson said he and the other runners are determined to make a statement to Boston and the world. More than 36,000 runners are expected. Combined with increased security, this year’s event will again be very different.
“It’s not going to be the Boston Marathon where ‘Hey, I’m going to do this as fast as I can.’ This is going to be the Boston Marathon where the world's eyes are going to be on the runners and the runners are going to have the upmost respect for the people who have lost their lives and the people injured in the bombings,” Wilson said.