It wasn’t her first marathon this year. And it wasn’t just a race.
Linda Ambard, a native of Boise who now lives in Acton, Mass., had been invited to run the Boston Marathon in memory of a fallen soldier. Her husband, Phil Ambard, lost his life at the hands of terrorists nearly two years ago. On Monday, Ambard was reminded of that tragedy just a quarter mile from the finish line.
"I have grabbed my life back by running," Ambard posted as a now viral Facebook status. "How can it be that as I was running to snub my nose at the terrorist that took Phil, another sought to destroy the hard fought for happiness I have found. It cannot end this way."
Hours after the bombings at the Boston Marathon, Ambard began inspiring thousands of others with her story. Her post has been shared more than 30,000 times.
“I will find the strength that I fall into with my faith. The terrorist will never EVER maim my heart, my spirit, or my drive to live life out loud. Got that?” she posted to Facebook following the race.
Well-wishers all over the country have left messages of hope, moved by Ambard’s story of faith.
Ambard recounted her story with the Deseret New in a phone interview Tuesday. She could see the finish line when she felt the street beneath her start to shake. The scene in front of her transformed from celebration to chaos.
Through a cloud of smoke, Ambard said she could see people sprinting away from the explosion. The course was immediately shut down. Her race was over.
Just minutes before and with nearly 26 miles behind her, Ambard had been enjoying the race. Following the aftermath of the attack, Ambard posted, “I was the cheerful girl zipping through the marathon with a swish of her red polka dotted skirt and a huge smile on her face.”
She had been calling out playful jibes at spectating members of the U.S. Army. Ambard’s husband served in the Air Force.
“Air power! Air power!” she said.
And then suddenly, fear. It was a fear reminiscent of two years ago.
On April 27, 2011, Ambard’s husband was killed in a mass shooting in Kabul, Afghanistan. They were married for 23 years.
Ambard had to come to grips with this harsh and sudden change in her life. She turned to her Christian faith and to running.
In 2012, Ambard ran 18 marathons and plans on running a total of 12 this year.
Ambard was also a torch bearer for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
The peace she had found was threatened again during the marathon she ran in memory of Phil.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama called the bombings "an act of terror."
“Terrorists took my husband. Running is the one thing I find my grounding and my faith in," Ambard said. "I can’t let another terrorist take something else away from me."
Ambard said that even though she lost her future with her husband, she is not defeated. The events surrounding her most recent marathon have not defeated her, either.
“I have to find a way to conquer this race and come back and do it again," she said.
She has begun that journey by taking it one day at a time.
“I didn’t sleep last night,” Ambard said. “Sometimes it’s one faltering step at a time. It may not look good this second, but tomorrow will look a little bit better.”
Her tomorrows are filled with faith in God and faith in this nation.
“We have to stay together," she said. "We have to keep hope. If not, the terrorists will have won. They cannot win."
Ambard said she has received messages of faith and hope poured out online in support of the victims of the attacks.
“So many people knew what I was running for," she said.
Ambard said she has been overwhelmed by the support from her post.
“I have been shocked that post went viral. It is my heart.”
Ambard believes the nation must embrace faith during hard times.
“We all want to have hope," she said. "Hopefully I can find hope in a dark time. It’s not about me. I hate that other people are losing hope.”
Ambard said she is finding ways to embrace the life she has been given as well as honoring her husband. Phil is one of the reasons her faith is so strong.
“I am who I am because he loved me well," she said.
Emmilie Buchanan is an intern for the Deseret News with Mormon Times. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho. Contact her at [email protected]