4:09:43–Interview with Hal Higdon, writer of the Boston Marathon book from a Runner’s view

One year ago today two bombs exploded near the Boston Marathon finish line. The attack killed 3 people and injured 264 spectators.

boston strong

I remember the ugly feeling in my stomach when I heard. My friends were running. I got several calls from family and friends checking on me and my friends.

I wasn’t there. But, I felt connected to the people who were. I felt connected to runners all around the world who came together after the tragedy.

Hal Hidgon wasn’t there either. But after the bombs went off runners flooded his social media accounts to tell their stories. They wanted to connect, cry, vent and just open up about what they saw that day.

Higdon is a legend in the running community. He has arguably the best known training programs for distance runners online (free!). He has run the Boston Marathon 18 times and covered it several more. And when people reached out he urged a few friends to write a book, but no one bit.

So, he compiled the stories from the runners who were there that day and 4:09:43 was born.

hal hidgon boston marathon book (600x800)

I had the honor of interviewing Hal Higdon last week. I have been a huge fan of his for years. I also had the opportunity to read the book before talking to him. It’s very unique and touching – and not just for runners. I’d recommend it to anyone, runner or not.

Hal Higdon 4:09:43 Interview

hal higdon interview


RER: I know you weren’t there that day, but how did this book come to be?

Higdon: I had no intention to write the book after the bombing. But these wonderful stories kept popping up on Facebook. People were sending emails. After the smoke cleared I was worried only a few people would read their stories. 

I wrote it as one runner with 75 pairs of eyes. It’s everyone’s story.

RER: I have read a lot of the stories and accounts online and it’s very sad and scary. Was it difficult for you?

Higdon: It was a very emotional writing experience. I can’t tell you how many times it caught me. When people are running into the smoke from the bombs…all the things going around that part…

There was a period when some people were actually opposed to writing a book like this, they thought it was popularizing the terrorists. But, as soon as the book came out people realized it wasn’t sensationalizing the terrorists. It is a book very tightly focused on the runners and what was going on between the barricades. The running population has welcomed it very well.

RER: Was there any one story in particular that stuck out to you when you heard it?

Higdon: I have known Michele Keen online for a few years. She pops up on my Facebook from time to time. She grew up in Boston and qualified for the race pretty fast. Last year she was running with a friend Vivian. At one point Michele saw her mom and stopped to hug her. Vivian kept going. They didn’t see each other from there.

Michele turned onto Boylston street when the first bomb when off. Vivian was right in front of the bomb. If Michele hadn’t paused she probably would have been in harm’s way.

RER: Are the 75 runners who shared their stories coming back to run Boston this year?

Higdon: There are a number of people who were hesitant. There was one gal who said she wasn’t going back to Boston. But a month or two later she realized she needed a ‘do-over’. Not all of the 75 are coming back, some for various reasons like family or work, but a lot of them are.

There were 5.600 people who were on the course and couldn’t finish. I think about 4,500 of those are coming back.

RER: What do you expect it to be like this year at the finish?

Higdon: It’s common for people coming through the last 100 yards of a marathon to have tears in their eyes. A lot of people have had a journey to get there… they’ve lost a lot of weight or gone through a divorce. It’s an emotional experience. You can imagine how emotional it’s going to be this year. It’s going to be a street of tears.

You can follow Hal Higdon on Facebook here.

You can check out his website with the training plans here.

You can get an autographed copy of 4:09:43 on his site here.

You can buy 4:09:43 on Amazon here.

Or he can sign it in person at the Boston Marathon expo!

Higdon will be at the Boston Marathon expo this weekend. He’ll be at the Human Kinetics booth. Please stop and say hello or sign a book and tell him RER sent ya with love!

boston marathon dangler

Good luck and safe travels to everyone running!


  1. says

    Its beyond amazing that approx 4500 of the 5600 that didnt finish are going to run it again. Its so inspiring and I wish I lived in boston to watch them all cross the finish line

  2. says

    Giddy over the makeover of rer. Such a lovely color palette. I am a graphic designer. Colors and fonts make me giddy :)

    So awesome that you had the opportunity to interview hh. His training plans have launched me into distance running.

    And on a more serious note. I’m really glad that the accounts from so many were the crux of this book. Still hard to believe a year ago that all happened.

  3. says

    I can’t wait to pick up this book. I know it’ll be a tear jerker, but so important to read. Great interview, too! Such thoughtful and interesting questions. I love Hal Higdon – he’s helped me through numerous races.

  4. says

    Love the redesign!

    I read it and thought it was really interesting. I was a little surprised that there wasn’t more time devoted to the bombing and aftermath, but I think the build up aspect will really speak to the audience.

  5. Lauren W. says

    Thank you Monica, for acknowledging and sharing in remembrance of a day that was difficult for us all, but especially for those of us who live in Boston, who were there, and who lived through this day and the terrifying 4 days that followed it. I can’t wait to watch every single runner cross the finish line this year and to read this book. Boston Strong!

  6. says

    What a wonderful article. I’m a huge Hal Higdon fan, in fact, I refer to him as “Coach Hal” around my house. I’ve used his training plans for all of my races and am following one now in hopes of qualifying for Boston next year. I lived there for 4 years and my son was born there. A good friend ran last year and then went to work at MGH in trauma surgery putting the wounded back together. The stories are horrific, heroic and inspiring and I hope to lace my running shoe on that infamous course!
    Thanks for the stories, RER and Hal! BOSTON IS STRONG! #bostonstrong

  7. says

    I am a huge fan of Hal Higdon and was very excited to learn about this book. I look forward to reading it. I was there last year and although my story isn’t in the book I would love to share it, anyone can read it at:


    For all of the runners who shared their stories: thank you! As we share our experiences, the whole community is strengthened. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it – we must share so that this is NEVER repeated. Kudos to all who shared their stories! And Thank You to Mr. Higdon for putting them all together!

  8. Michael McHugh says

    Great day in Boston yesterday! It wasn’t lost on me that 50 years ago, HH was the 1st American finisher at Boston in 1964!

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