One of the most enduring images from last year's tragedy at the Boston marathon was of a longhaired guy in a Stetson hurrying a legless man through the wounded streets. We later learned the legless individual was Jeff Bauman, a 27-year-old native of Chelmsford (30 miles north of Boston) – and that he survived. Just days before the 2014 Boston Marathon, Men's Journal talked with Bauman about his new book, Stronger (out now), and the long road back from his injuries.
How do you expect to feel Monday?
It's definitely tough going back and being in a crowd of people. But it's going be a real fun day. I'm looking forward to the atmosphere. But I don't know if it will trigger bad memories or good memories. I'm unsure of what's going to happen.
You said in the book that you wanted to walk at the race this year. How is that going?
Well, I thought I'd be able to walk 26 miles by now. But it's coming along really well. I'm getting to know the [artificial] knees and how to stand up straight. I can walk longer distances every day. Outside, I'm walking with arm crutches in case there's an incline or stairs.
And what about walking without crutches?
It's harder with double above-the-knee amputation. It's like standing with door hinges. It's tough. You have to have a lot of core strength, upper legs, and glutes. But that's the goal. People do it all the time. That's the ultimate independence.
I don't remember reading about this before your book, but you actually saw Tamerlan. You wrote that you stared at each other, briefly, and that he was the only one not cheering.
Well, I'm glad that they used what I said to ID him, but it's tough to know that I saw him and didn't do anything. Honestly, I didn't know what he was doing. But his face does stick in my head. The first couple times I saw him on TV, I was like, “Oh my God, that's the guy.” It's weird. I've got mixed feelings. It's tough to see him and know I was standing right next to him.
What in your recovery process has been the most difficult for you?
Probably dealing with my new life. It's totally different from my old life. I miss it. I have this new life, and it's hard to maintain, to be the same person, to do the same things, to hang out with my friends. It's just different. It's tough to get a concept of, tough to find motivation. Sometimes I don't feel like doing anything. It's tough to get a spark.
Do you think about that day often?
I had a couple nightmares. Mostly I lie in bed before I fall asleep, and I think about it. I think about it every day, maybe if I'm on the sidewalk. I think about it briefly, then I get passed it.
You're engaged, and you're going to be a dad. When is she due?
July 14. I'm really excited. We have one of those playgrounds with a kind of cork floor, and it has a big hill. I just did the hill for the first time without crutches. It's really challenging. That's what I'm working on – just getting ready for the little one. It's good practice.
Have you found out if it's a boy or girl?
No, we're going old school. We're going to keep it a surprise.