Promises Kept

Running The Marathon With Professor Peter Krause

Peter Krause is usually a cautious athlete.

If he finds himself hurting during a basketball game with friends, he quells his competitive nature and takes some time out—no use making it worse.

The 34-year-old Boston College assistant professor of political science applied the same mentality to his training for the Boston Marathon. When he pulled his hamstring while preparing for a half marathon in the fall, he spent a month healing. When an IT band injury started plaguing his right knee after Spring Break, he took two weeks off from his 18-week Hal Higdon running program.

But as he began his 20-mile run around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir—his first run in two weeks and his longest before his first marathon-the time for caution was running out.

The Boston Marathon was 23 days away, and he had a promise to keep, a promise made to the thousands of people who read a letter he sent to The Heights last year in response to the bombings that rocked the city.

When his right knee started throbbing by the 4-mile mark, Krause knew he was at a crossroads.

He ran through the pain.

On the same day that he promised to run the Boston Marathon, Krause swore that he never would.

He and his wife, Alissa Goldhaber Krause, a Suffolk County assistant district attorney who grew up in Chestnut Hill, were at a party in Washington Square hosted by one of Alissa’s high school friends to watch the 2013 Marathon. As they cheered for the passing runners, Alissa asked her six-foot-four husband whether or not he would ever consider running the race.

“Not in a million years,” Krause said.

Though he could play team sports like basketball for as long as he wished, Krause had never run more than five miles in his life. The last time he tried was at Frisbee practice in college, and it nearly killed him—he was more than happy to remain a Marathon spectator.

“I respect those who do,” he said, “but running 26.2 miles just isn’t for me.”

Four days ago, Alissa called these her husband’s “famous last words.”

After spending an hour at the party cheering on the runners, Krause left to finish some grading in his McGuinn 229 office at BC. His wife stayed behind.

Alissa did not remain at the party for much longer than an hour after her husband left, leaving to run a couple quick errands. She made her way through spectators along Beacon Street to make sure their taxes were postmarked on time at the post office, and she stopped by a Trader Joe’s near their Coolidge Corner apartment.

Then her phone rang. It was her mother, calling to alert her to the first rumblings of news that something was not right at the finish line. Alissa looked through the windows of the Trader Joe’s to see the runners still moving at a normal pace and the spectators still cheering—everything seemed okay at mile 24. Her mother, however, was insistent.

After immediately calling her husband to relay her mother’s message, Alissa left the grocery store to find a very different atmosphere on Beacon Street. Police officers were on the road, rerouting the marathoners and shouting at the crowd to get off the streets and return to their homes.

“I actually started to run to get back to our building,” she said.

In less than 15 minutes, Alissa was back in the sixth-floor apartment that she has now shared with Krause for about four years. She turned on the television and heard her husband’s voice.

Krause was already conducting a phone interview with one of the many news stations that would call him on Marathon Monday and during its aftermath—New England Cable News, MSNBC, ABC-Boston, CNN. Krause, who earned his Ph.D. at MIT, has a strong background in Middle East politics and the causes and effects of terrorism. He frequents local news stations that are looking for an expert opinion on the topic.

Alissa called Krause again, and they agreed that he should stay put at BC until more information came to light.

“I remember feeling the same way on 9/11,” she said. “Is something else going to go off in an hour? What else is happening?”

While Alissa sat frightened on one end of the Reservoir, Krause sat on the other end in his BC office—preparing to craft a response to her fear.

He had put his grading to the side, but his students were still on his mind. In his 15-week Introduction to International Studies class, which every sophomore in the major takes, one week is dedicated to the study of the causes and effects of terrorism. That week of study would begin the next day. He dreaded having to teach his students about terrorism in a way that was not abstract, but that had immediate and personal implications. A native New Englander from Connecticut, Krause knew that Boston had been largely exempt from the threat of terrorism in the past, and he recognized that this was about to rapidly change.

He understood that his students would, to some extent, have the same feelings that he had during his senior year at Williams College, when his friends woke him up (ever the academic, he had spent a late night working on his thesis) and told him about the first plane colliding with the World Trade Center. Together with his housemates, Krause watched the events that brought the nation to a standstill.

His students would feel uncertain, Krause decided, about both the nature of the situation and how they could respond.

“Maybe I should try to do something about this,” he thought.

To ease their uncertainties, Krause penned a letter to the editor that was published through The Heights that afternoon and would receive substantial attention from local media outlets.

“I don’t have any inside information about who the attackers are,” Krause wrote. “But I can say with confidence that they made a huge mistake.”

A professor who prides himself on his objectivity, this letter was a departure for Krause. No longer just a professor who presented the facts, he had injected himself into the scenario as a participant.

I hate to run and have never run more than five miles in my entire life, but I am running the Boston Marathon next year and I am raising money to send to the victims of this tragedy and the first responders who prevented an even greater one … Who is with me?

Adejire Bademosi, A&S ’14, is one of the many BC students who aligned themselves with Krause’s call to action. When the bombs went off, Bademosi was studying abroad in Venice. After spending a harrowing Marathon Monday detached from her peers in Boston—she was restricted to using iMessage and Snapchat to learn about their well-being—Krause’s letter to the editor was just what she needed.

Although she had never met Krause, she decided to email him in gratitude. Bademosi opted to follow his lead and run the next Boston Marathon herself by signing up to run with the Campus School. While Bademosi’s plans have encountered trouble as a result of the Boston Athletic Association’s stricter rules against bandit runners, Krause avoided this obstacle by raising money for the Children’s Advocacy Center, which strives to alleviate the trauma undergone by the victims of child abuse and their families during the legal process. Krause’s wife, who works for the Child Abuse Unit in the district attorney’s office, is heavily involved with the organization.

Despite the uncertain future of her own Marathon run, Bademosi said that Krause was consistently a source of support during her training, asking about her progress and advising her to take some time off when she hurt her ankle.

Now, Bademosi has a class with Krause and is conducting research with him.

“He treats us like actual scholars,” she said, “not just as students.”

This sense of scholarship is important to Krause. Knowledge, he believes, can alleviate fear.

To that end, Krause gave a public lecture this past Tuesday night called “Terrorism and the Boston Marathon: Fear, Hope, and Resilience.” Wearing a black suit and a blue-checkered shirt, Krause demonstrated his strong professorial presence as he paced in front of the lecture hall, delivering the same message espoused in the letter he wrote almost a year ago. If a community can come together and channel its emotions into meeting positive goals, such as doing service work or, of course, running commemorative marathons, then terrorism is a failure.

He exhorted those attending the lecture to support this weekend’s Campus School Bandit Run, designed to replace the Boston Marathon in which students like Bademosi will now not be able to complete.

“I’m going to be out there cheering them on,” he said.

Sitting in his office last week, Krause looked like the scholar that BC knows him to be—a collar and a tie, a wall of books behind him with titles like Arms and Influence by Thomas Schelling and Inside Terrorism by Bruce Hoffman.

But the shoes he wore underneath his desk—an older pair of blue Nike Pegasus 30s—identified him as the dedicated marathoner that he’s become. He hoped that wearing the shoes would help his knees recover from his triumphant 20-mile run around the Reservoir, about which he was still feeling good.

“If you’d talked to me two weeks ago I would still have thought I would have run, but I would have been very worried about if I had to walk a lot, or whatever else,” he said. “But now I feel that, barring some big thing, I’ll be able to run at a pretty good clip, which is good.”

Being able to train on the dirt path around the Reservoir has been better for his knees than the pavement forced on him for the majority of the training season by a harsh Boston winter. The carriage road between BC and the Newton fire station was one of the few sufficiently cleared paths, and he joined a slew of other aspiring marathoners looking to take advantage of the seven-mile stretch. There, they were together in their struggle, and a friendly nod or encouraging thumbs-up was good for Krause—the solitude of running is not like the team sports he knows so well.

In sports like basketball, Krause can focus on several tasks at once, but while running, he has to work hard to quiet the voices in his head that tell him to slow down or take a break-no one would know if he stopped running on any of those random, blistering cold days in January.

“I get out there and I say, ‘Why did I do this in the first place?'” he said. “It wasn’t for fun. It was because I was sitting in this office last year when the bombs went off at the Marathon after having been there an hour before watching it with my wife, and feeling that this is something I want to do to honor the victims and the first responders.”

For Krause, those people are the team with whom he runs.

“We get to decide if we respond to these terrible acts with fear and hatred or with renewed community spirit,” he wrote in his letter last year.

When Krause experiences the culmination of his efforts on Marathon Monday, the support of his wife and family, who plan to make posters and be at more than one spot along the route, will serve as evidence of the community spirit that Krause hoped his letter would help inspire.

While he is running, Krause yearns for the crowd not to cheer his name, but the names on the white shirt he will be wearing during the race—Krystle, Lingzi, Martin, and Sean.

It is those names—the names of those lost but still remembered—that will carry him to the finish line.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

April 9, 2014