Lt. Col. (Dr.) David King runs in the 2013 Boston Marathon. ()
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A year ago, Army Reserve Lt. Col. (Dr.) David King crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon with a time of 3 hours, 12 minutes — a slow pace for the experienced runner but a thrill nonetheless for the Cambridge, Mass., resident.
King rendezvoused with his family and hopped in a cab to go home. But just minutes into the ride, his cellphone suddenly began buzzing with texts asking him if he was all right.
He didn’t know it at the time, but two pressure cooker bombs had exploded on Boylston Street, killing three and injuring hundreds.
Within minutes, the Massachusetts General trauma surgeon was back on the scene and hard at work — the start of a 30-hour odyssey of surgery and treating Boston bombing victims, relying on the skills he had honed in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Military Times caught up with King on April 17, two days after the first anniversary of the attack — and four days before he was due to run in this year’s 117th Boston Marathon.
Q. A year ago, you had hoped to run the 2014 race beside four-time Boston Marathon winner Bill Rodgers and those who had been injured, had treated the injured or whose families were affected. Is that going to happen?
A. It sounded like a great plan, but because of the entry requirements for Boston, it became complicated. There are qualification times and race requirements not everyone could do. If it were an open race, it would have happened. And Bill wanted to run it but he’s had a few injuries, so he’s going to be on the course on the lead motorcycle ahead of the first wave. I’ll be right behind him.
Q. Besides the fact that it’s your hometown marathon, why are you running this year?
A.There are lots of people running it this year for many reasons — for the victims, for their patients, for their love of the city. Like many people, I wear multiple hats. But I’m really running it this year as a citizen-soldier, in outright defiance of the purpose the terrorists were trying to achieve. They tried to scare us last year, and I want to show that we are not scared. We are going to run louder, faster, stronger, more boisterously than we have ever run before.
Q. You saved lives last April 15 and escorted President Obama during a visit to Massachusetts General. This year, Vice President Joe Biden mentioned you in his speech in Boston on the anniversary of the bombing. How did that feel?
A. It was cool to get a shout-out from the vice president. I didn’t know it was coming. I thought it was just great to be there and then to have Vice President Joe Biden nod and point at me during his speech ... well, it was cool.
Q. Have you reflected on the experience? What are the lessons learned?
A. One of the things we do well in the military but has been poorly translated to civilian medicine is the use of tourniquets. All soldiers — not just medics, not just corpsmen — carry tourniquets in their pockets. And they know how to use them. What struck me is that many emergency medical services responders don’t have them. That needs to change. A T-shirt with a knot in it isn’t going to work. I’d like to see tourniquet availability and the knowledge to use them as common as the Heimlich maneuver or CPR.
Q. What’s ahead this year for you?
A. After Boston, I’m going to do another marathon and two Ironmans — Ironman Texas and Mont-Tremblant. I wanted to run the New York City Marathon in November too, but I’m getting deployed. I’m considering doing it remotely, using a virtual program or one of those digital things, but I haven‘t really looked into it yet. I need to get through Boston first.