BOSTON — “Please, I'm in pain,” Stacy Shaw wanted to cry out Monday to the boisterous crowd on Boylston Street. She had just turned the corner from Hereford Street, and revelers were coaxing her to sprint to the finish in the final seconds of a Boston Marathon the world will never forget.
Shaw's right leg had given out 18 miles earlier. Medics had stopped her twice along the 26.2-mile route to administer first aid and counsel her against continuing.
But Shaw, 47, a fifth-grade teacher from Hastings, Neb., was committed to delivering her students a real-life lesson in perseverance.
She would have been happy to walk the final 600 yards of Boylston Street. Even crawl, she said. She hurt that much.
But the crowd wouldn't let her.
The voices of faceless strangers — some of whose lives would be forever shattered moments later — spurred her. And possibly spared her, Shaw believes, from danger.
Prodded by the crowd, Shaw managed to hobble across the finish line just seconds before the first bomb shattered the splendor of a joyful Boston holiday. She was the slowest runner to officially complete the 2013 Boston Marathon, at 4 hours, 44 minutes, 14 seconds.
Had the crowd not urged her on, Shaw believes, she could have been directly exposed to shrapnel and blast injuries when the bombs exploded nearby, killing three spectators, including an 8-year-old boy, and wounding nearly 180 others.
“They saved me,” she said Wednesday as she prepared to return home to Hastings. “There's no doubt about it.”
Officially listed as the 17,580th and slowest finisher before marathon officials shut down operations, Shaw had just crossed the line in front of the Boston Public Library when she was shaken by an extraordinary boom. It sounded to her like a cannon. Then the second bomb went off.
“At that point, we all knew.”
Shaw said she saw all the commotion and realized that she and the other runners had to stay calm and keep moving.
“My goal at that point was to get to my phone and let people know I was all right,” said Shaw, a mother of four.
Soon after starting the marathon, she realized that she would fall far short of her goal: a three-hour finish. She had run three marathons in Nebraska, posting a personal best of 3:03. But she was nagged by ankle tendinitis that quickly caused her to adjust her gait. By Mile 9, Shaw had run herself into agony, pain throbbing from her right ankle through her knee.
By Mile 13, medical workers had wrapped her injured leg. They did the same about 8 miles later near Heartbreak Hill. They also cautioned her to not risk further damaging her leg by continuing.
“I'm almost done,” she told them.
“It's a long 6 miles,” they warned.
So it was, the pain worsening as she worked her way downhill to Boston. Finally, she turned from Hereford onto Boylston Street, the finish line in sight, the crowd noise swelling.
“How can you not give everything you have,” she said, “when you have all those people cheering for you?”
Now, she is cheering for Boston, grateful for all the support and hopeful for a better tomorrow.
Shaw, who plans to run Boston next year, said she will teach her students at Longfellow Elementary School not only about the merits of finishing what they start, but about the human condition in a world where evil sometimes lurks in unexpected places.
“We'll talk about the importance of our freedoms, but I don't want anybody to hate,” Shaw said. “So I'll also teach them that what we want to bring out of this is goodness.”