Boston runners share experiences

John Perera, Amisha Shah and Kathy Thompson Jessie Sebor/Womensrunning.com

Women's Running editor Jessie Sebor was in Boston for the marathon and visited with several runners in the wake of Monday's bombings. She shares their stories here.


Angela Machado
Sao Paulo, Brazil
1st Boston Marathon

Before the tragedy: "It was fantastic -- like a dream. It was a glorious moment for me. I finished in three hours, 13 minutes."
During the explosions: "I didn't see anything. I went back to my hotel with my boyfriend and to me, everything seemed normal. When I was coming down the elevator to have lunch, one guest told me two bombs went off. I thought it can't be as big as he said. Then we went out and we saw the streets full of policemen."
The day after: "My feeling today is worse than yesterday. Today, I realized. You know, I did the New York Marathon and the day after, everybody said, 'Oh you did the marathon? Congratulations!' Today, it's, 'Oh, you were there.' I had by best time. I'm supposed to be happy, but I don't want to celebrate."
Looking forward: "I plan to do other races here [in Boston]. I love it."

• • •

Freddy Valdez
Tampa, Fla.
2nd Boston Marathon

Before the tragedy: "The race was fun. I enjoyed it. Fortunately, I came in 39 minutes before the bomb went off."
During the explosions: "I had just met up with my father. We had just left the family reunion area and we were walking back toward the hotel. When I heard the second explosion, I knew it wasn't a transformer. I knew it didn't sound right. Then we saw people running toward us. One woman was crying hysterically, one father had a kid in his arms. We went upstairs to get to safety."
The day after: "We went to Quincy Market today and Faneuil Hall and the North End. There was kind of a somber mood. Everyone was wearing their jackets, so when we went to Mike's Pastries and sat behind someone else, we started talking. Everyone was sharing their stories, where they were when they realized what happened."
Looking forward: "My friends and family have been praying for us and for everybody involved. I was planning for this to be my last Boston. But I told my wife today I want to do it one more time. I don't want to finish it with this tone."

• • •

Maria Matheus and
Abraham Rodriguez
1st Boston Marathon for both

Before the tragedy: "I had very high expectations for myself. I was hoping to do a very good time, but it didn't happen." -- Rodriguez
"It was a tough race; we are from Houston, so it was hilly for us, but it was a very enjoyable marathon." -- Matheus
During the explosions: "After I finished, I was walking toward our meeting point set. The noise was really loud, but everybody thought it was fireworks. Then I started to see the commotion -- people running and police and sirens. I talked to a girl who was crying and a guy who was in shock. They had just crossed the finish and saw everything. I was a little scared because I didn't know where my wife was. I tried to call her right then -- finally she got through." -- Rodriguez
"They stopped us coming under the bridge. Soon they had more and more news and explaining what was happened. People were giving out water and trash bags, because it was so cold." -- Matheus
The day after: "We're sad, in disbelief." -- Rodriguez
"We were dreaming to come here. That changed what we were expecting." -- Matheus
Looking forward: "It's something that's indescribable, but still, life goes on. We need to be strong. Definitely we're coming back. We're still proud of being here." -- Rodriguez

• • •

Linda Hensman
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
2nd Boston Marathon

Before the tragedy: "Things were going really well. It was a fabulous day. I was really pleased at how I was doing. I was going to get a good time for me."
During the explosions: "We were stopped with 1K to go. At first, I thought, 'Oh darn! I'm not going to get my best time.' Then, I realized it was serious. Everybody was very calm and controlled. Considering the circumstances, the organizers did a fabulous job. We walked, got our gear and went back to the apartment I was staying in and watched the news."
The day after: "It's more traumatic today than yesterday. I'm terribly sad, for society, for America, particularly for the people who've lost loved ones, a family who has lost a son, a daughter who is severely injured. It's tragic, absolutely tragic. And senseless."
Looking forward: "I've had tremendous support. The strength you get from expressions of concern is absolutely phenomenal. That really helps me get through the difficult times."

• • •

Kathy Thompson, John Perera and Amisha Shah
Ontario, Canada
1st Boston Marathon for Thompson and Shah, 2nd for Perera

Before the tragedy: "I wanted to enjoy the experience, to take it all in because it's such a big event with so much history." -- Thompson
"I was going in with a set time but I blew up at 14 kilometers in. It just became a matter of finishing the race in whatever time." -- Perera
"I'm a John Hancock employee, so I was an invitee. For me, it was a dream to run Boston. I knew I'd never be able to qualify, so I just wanted to enjoy every moment." -- Shah
During the explosions: "I finished about half an hour before. I went to the family meeting area and was looking for all of these guys. I thought it was thunder at first." -- Thompson
"We thought, Wow that was a loud noise. Then we knew something was wrong. There were sirens and people scrambling for wheelchairs. It was a panic." -- Perera
"I was at the 20-mile mark. There was a girl in front of me whose phone was going off like crazy. Someone was calling to tell her that there was an explosion. We were pushed aside so all the police cars could get by us. We kept running and then at 25 they cut us off and held us in a synagogue close by. The people there were absolutely phenomenal, helping us out. I used Internet to Facebook them and made sure they were safe. My race ended there. I didn't care. I needed to know if they were safe or not." -- Shah
The day after: "Somber and saddened. We're all still here to enjoy each other's company, but many people weren't that lucky." -- Thompson
"It's surreal." -- Perera
"It's sad. It's really, really sad. It doesn't sink in that this has happened." -- Shah
Looking forward: "I'll be here next year. This hasn't deterred me from coming. Whoever did this, for whatever intention ... if the Boston Marathon shuts down, they win. If anything, the Boston Marathon is going to go on stronger than ever." -- Perera
"I think I would want to run it more now." -- Thompson
"I'll be back next year to finish my last 2K ... and support what the race stands for. It's Patriots Day. It's about being strong." -- Shah

• • •

Diana Babor
Ottawa, Canada
2nd Boston Marathon

Before the tragedy: "I almost didn't run this year because I had an injury to my upper shin. That morning, I dreaded even walking. As I was thinking how I'd really prefer to watch from the finish line, the words 'lean not onto thine own understanding' came to mind and I got dressed to run."
During the explosions: "I had about 700 meters left. I was looking at the corner where you turn and everybody was standing still. All of a sudden everyone turned and came running down and said there were bombs. I started to get very cold, so I jumped into a Dunkin' Donuts and a very kind gentleman offered to buy me a coffee. The volunteers were outstanding, beyond the call."
The day after: "I didn't get much sleep. I was walking around Boston Common this morning and thinking of an old song 'There's Got to be a Morning After.' I feel for this city, I feel for this country. I feel grateful that some greater force was looking out for me."
Looking forward: "There's definitely a change in the air. It's not happy, but there's always resilience to get people through. I posted a few things on Facebook about my experience and I've been taking a lot of photos. That's helped. And I absolutely will be back. This city is fantastic. I wish I lived here. The people here are amazing, so attentive and comforting."

• • •

Steve Wieckert
Appleton, Wis.
2nd Boston Marathon

Before the tragedy: "The crowds were just wonderful and the temperatures were perfect. It was a wonderful race."
During the explosions: "I had crossed the finish line and we were walking to the buses. We heard the bang and then the other bang. We didn't hear any screaming or sirens, so we just kept walking. Then the police came and said, 'We need you to go to this other exit.' I finally got back to Amy [my wife], and she said they'd canceled the race. When I saw state troopers, I knew something was wrong, then so, so many ambulances."
The day after: "We're sad. We're angry that they did this. It was a wonderful event. There's a euphoria when you finish. Your emotions are so high and then they drop so low."
Looking forward: "There's a half marathon this Sunday in Oshkosh, 30 miles away from Appleton. They asked me to do a prayer there before they run. It will be tough to do. ... We're hoping that they catch the bad guys. I don't know if I'll ever qualify again, but I'd like to give my support to the people of Boston and the marathon. You can't let terrorism stop you from living life. That's their goal. The marathon was wonderful. The Boston police and firefighters reacted so well, I want to support their efforts."