Sanford runner: Scene in Boston was ‘surreal and sad’

Apr. 21, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

This was our second consecutive trip to run the Boston Marathon. Last year, we went with my mother in law, Lanelia Pettus, and my wife, Karen. It was 90 degrees and I didn’t do well, but the city, its people and the crowd had us eager to get back. We traveled to northwest Pennsylvania to qualify for this year’s Boston [Marathon] with the same crew, and my niece, Taylor Rosser. We barely made it by 15 seconds. We had our ticket to go again!

Karen and I arrived Friday and spent time taking pictures at the finish line and the grandstand area. Many people do this to remember the occasion. We also walked around the beautiful city of Boston. Monday morning came, and we all got buses to the starting line to race.

The race went well for me, but I did not qualify for Boston next year with this time. I needed a 3:25 or less, and I ran it in 3:31. I was not feeling well and cramping up, so we went to our hotel, which is approximately one mile from the finish line.

Karen went to get me a sandwich, and I was taking a shower. Karen came back to tell me that they told her in the lobby that there has been a bombing. We turned on the TV to see what was going on. Of course, we were shocked, then [there were] tears as we prayed for the families and their loved ones who were injured in the blast.

As soon as we turned on the TV, our cell phones started going crazy with family, friends from church, people we haven’t seen or heard from in years, friends from Noble Oil (my place of work), and Pinehurst Dermatology in Pinehurst where Karen works. One of the most important calls was from our son, Jonathan. He is a third-generation Marine in my family. He had heard about things and was in tears and thankful for our safety as well.

That night, we were told to stay in our room so the Boston police and other authorities could start their investigation. By this time, it had started to anger me about what this person or organization had done to innocent people supporting a sports event. So I decided that we would go out and see if something was open to get something to eat.

Very few people were on the street, and no traffic; most businesses were closed. The Boston Police Department was out in full force on every corner. Last year, you could hardly walk down the street, as everyone was celebrating their accomplishments at the marathon and Patriots Day, which Boston celebrates. [It was] very surreal and sad at the same time.

The next day, we headed to the airport early to go home because we had heard that security would be very thorough and might take some more time. ... The police and FBI were all over the airport searching for clues to the cowardly, evil people who did this. They came over to Karen and me and looked at all of our pictures to see if we had taken anything that would help, or saw anything that could assist them.

We spoke with a lot of other runners and their families. We met people who had been right there when the bombs had gone off, and people who had not been able to complete the marathon. These people had come from all over the world for this event; we met people from France, England, Ireland, Brazil, Australia and Vietnam, just to name a few. The one thing that all of them had in common was that they would do their best to come back next year. The people of Boston are strong, good people that will be back in droves next year, along with runners from all over the world, to show that we won’t be scared or intimidated by punks.

We will continue our prayers for those who were injured and those who lost loved ones. I was proud to see what the local running club is doing for this tragedy. They are wonderful people, and there is a great camaraderie among runners.

I hope more people take up this great sport and make and achieve a goal of running the Boston Marathon. Runners [can] only make this happen with the support of our families and friends. ...

The support and love that Karen and I received from everyone was very humbling and very appreciated. I had planned to run a marathon in Oregon, where I am from, next April, and not run Boston if I was fortunate enough to qualify. Now I am looking for another marathon to qualify for Boston in 2014, much to my wife’s dismay! God willing, I will be there.