Former BYU Athlete Completed Boston Race Before Explosions

  By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 19 April 2013

Brandi Brooks, 17, left, and her sister Cheyanne, 3, look at a memorial to Boston Marathon bombing victim 8-year-old Martin Richard near the Richard house in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Wednesday, April 17.  Photo courtesy of Brayden Jessen.

“It makes me want to be a better husband and father with whatever time I have left.” —Brayden Jessen, Boston Marathon competitor

The Boston Marathon remains the ultimate destination for competitive runners such as Taryn Jessen. So years ago, the former BYU distance athlete placed the storied race near the top of her so-called “Bucket List.”

Then last fall the Sandy, Utah, woman secured a qualifying race time and was granted a spot in the April 15 event. She and her husband, Brayden Jessen, traveled together to Boston. They would return home with their lives forever changed.

For the Jessens and thousands of others, the 2013 Boston Marathon was marred by a pair of deadly explosions that were detonated near the crowded finish line. The blasts—which are being called acts of terrorism—claimed three lives and injured more than 170 people.

Sister Jessen, a member of the Crescent 12th Ward, Draper Utah Crescent View Stake, finished the 26.2-mile race about a half-hour before the bombs exploded. Brother Jessen caught up with her a few minutes later about a block away from the finish line. The couple took a short subway ride to a nearby diner. Then their phones—and the phones of all the other diners—began ringing.

Relatives told them that a pair of bombs had just exploded, harming many. “We don’t really use Facebook that much, but Taryn hurried and posted a message that we were OK.” Seconds later the roads were filled with emergency vehicles rushing to the nearby finish line.

Todd Lawson, left, and his sister Taryn Jessen at the finish line. Photo courtesy of Brayden Jessen.

The tragedy left the Jessens all but speechless. A sunny day filled with wonder and joy had turned frightening and sinister. The couple offered what would be the first of many prayers until they could return to their three young children waiting at home.

“As soon as I got home, I kissed my children,” said Brother Jessen.

He and his wife think often about the people harmed by the blasts. They are staggered that someone would commit such a crime. They are inspired by the countless people who rushed to help those in need.

Evil and goodness, he said, were found together that afternoon in Boston.

“This will impact the rest of my life,” he added. “It makes me want to be a better husband and father with whatever time I have left.”