Barrington High School graduate, District 220 elementary art teacher and BHS Cross Country Coach, Tom Root, always dreamed of running the Boston Marathon. This Monday, the 26-year-old lifelong runner from Barrington Hills reached that goal, finishing his seventh marathon, his first outside the state of Illinois.
Tom crossed the finish line, just 40 minutes before two shrapnel-filled bombs exploded there, killing three people and injuring more than 180 others. He had rested nearby, gathered his things and just headed back to a friend’s place when the bombs went off.
Just a few miles from the finish line, Tom’s cell phone started to light up with messages from concerned friends and family back home.
“I started getting texts asking, ‘Are you OK?’. I think the first one was actually from Ty Gorman, the head cross country coach at Barrington High School, and I figured he had just been tracking my times. I explained that I was fine and then he told me there were explosions at the finish line. Being so close to it and having just been at the exact spot where the bombs went off, knowing you needed to sit tight because they didn’t know if something else was going to happen, was just a strange, scary feeling.”
“Not long after I found out Tom had finished, we started getting calls and texts asking if he was OK. I called Tom and, at first, the call didn’t go through.”
They finally connected and Jim learned that Tom was safe.
“You’re glad, but then you’re also sad for the people who were there. It was a surreal day, a little like September 11th for me. It was a gorgeous day, everybody was happy, and, all of a sudden, this horrific thing happens.”
Jim says it was good to give Tom a hug in person when he picked him up from the airport this week. Tom was wearing his brand new Boston Marathon jacket when he stepped off the plane, just in time to make a cross country meet at Barrington High School.
As investigators uncover new evidence in their search for those responsible for this week’s bombing, Tom says learning more about the victims and their families is heartbreaking…
“It wasn’t until I was on the plane heading home that I read more stories about the people who lost their lives. The one that brought me to tears was about the eight-year-old boy who had just hugged his dad at the finish line. It just could not have been more of a joyous, positive, upbeat event for someone to destroy.”
And Jim echoes his son’s sense of disbelief.
“The fact that they’d target innocent bystanders, it wasn’t even runners they were going after, so that’s why it doesn’t make any sense.
But I think, whoever did this, they’re going to catch that person soon. There’s too much evidence. And it’ll be interesting to see what their point was.
It’s just a messed up world we’re living in and I guess the only thing you can do is be grateful that these people are few and far between.”
Now that he’s back at home, Tom says he’s proud to have been part of this marathon. And he says coaching his cross country team at Barrington High School will be a welcome reminder of the fellowship, the spectators and the things he loves most about running these races.
“Every marathon is a joyful event, but the Boston Marathon is special because they’re all really good runners and runner families that are there to support them and the city itself. It’s a huge party the day of the marathon. Everyone has the day off from work and the day off from school and everyone comes out to enjoy the event and it was a gorgeous day.”
“The team here at Barrington High School is another very happy and positive group of guys to be around. The coaches, the athletes, it’s just a friendly, positive competition and it’s going to be a nice distraction.”
And Tom says there is no question that more marathons are on his horizon.
“I feel anger about what happened, but I also feel connected to the running community, even more so now. And I think many, including myself, will run more in defiance of this act against something that’s so incredible and amazing.”
In addition to being an avid runner, Tom Root is also a photographer, artist and educator. He teaches art classes at Barrington 220’s Hough, Sunny Hill and Roslyn elementary schools, he’s captured beautiful images of BHS cross country team meets and you’ll find his website at TomRootPhotography.com.