Auburn area runners, spectators avoid Boston blast by minutes
For some Auburn area runners and their supporters at Monday’s Boston Marathon, a matter of minutes turned out to be the difference from being near the explosions that killed three people and injured more than 130 others – at least 15 critically.
Jennifer Entz of Auburn said she had been sitting with her mother in the VIP section near the finish line where a pair of bombs went off, but she had gone to greet her sister, Keri Garcia, upon finishing the race about 15 minutes before detonation.
Garcia, a 1984 Placer High School graduate, had been running despite suffering an injury. Entz didn’t think her sister would be able to complete the 26.2-mile course. So as soon as Garcia finished the race, Entz hustled over to meet her sibling on a side street, on the opposite side of the building on Boylston Street, where the bombs exploded.
“The weird thing is she said she was going to pull out of the race,” Entz said. “If she pulled up, we would have been waiting and sitting right there. Thankfully she pushed through and finished in still a good time. Thankfully we got out of there.”
The bloody scene of shattered glass and severed limbs raised alarms that terrorists might have struck again in the U.S. A White House official speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still unfolding said the attack was being treated as an act of terrorism.
President Barack Obama vowed that those responsible will “feel the full weight of justice.”
After watching video footage of the tragic event unfold on TV, Entz said, “one of the explosions was right by where we were sitting.” Entz said she’s never heard anything like the booming noises.
“It was kind of like thunder,” she said, “but 100 times louder. It was just crazy loud.”
Runner Jeremy Brown of Folsom said he pushed hard to beat the four-hour mark, finishing 3 hours, 59 minutes and 8 seconds after the starting gun sounded. Shortly after he cleared the finish line, the race had its abrupt end punctuated with a horrific sound. Video at the time of an explosion showed the race time to be 4:09:41.
“I was around the corner,” Brown said on Facebook. “Everyone froze but it took awhile before people realized what was going on.”
Brown said when explosions rocked the area, he was waiting for a bus, not too far from the finish.
“We could hear it, since it was pretty close,” he told the Folsom Telegraph, a sister publication to the Auburn Journal. “In fact, I was surprised when I saw how small the explosions were when I saw them on TV. It was a big boom.
“This was a big deal and was the race on my calendar. This is the only thing that’s been on the horizon for me for the last year-and-a-half.”
A senior U.S. intelligence official said two other bombs were found near the end of the course in what appeared to be a well-coordinated attack.
Authorities shed no light on a motive or who may have carried out the bombings, and police said they had no suspects in custody. Authorities in Washington said there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Jenny Winger, a 1981 Placer High School alumna now living in Loomis, told the Journal Wednesday that she would be running the marathon and traveling to Boston with her mother, Angie Boyd of Rocklin, and staying for 10 days to do some sightseeing.
A message left for Winger was not returned Monday, but her friend, Laura Haase, said in an email that “she is okay and just pretty shaken up.”
“I just cannot believe it,” Haase said. “Jenny and I ran it 2 years ago and our husbands were standing in almost that exact spot where the first bomb went off.”
Winger finished in 4:05:36 on Monday.
“She was getting water and heard the booms and turned around and saw what looked like debris being thrown into the street. She said they shut everything down immediately and she couldn’t even get food,” Haase wrote. “The SWAT teams came in their big black SUVs and got everyone out of the finish area. It took her awhile to find her mother and then they had to walk back to their hotel, about 6 miles away! After running 26 miles!”
Entz is now afraid to travel around town.
“We’re from little Auburn,” Entz said by phone from Massachusetts. “This is kind of crazy for us. We don’t feel safe going outside.”
They planned on staying in Boston until Wednesday before flying to New York, but they’re unsure if they’re still going to visit the Big Apple. Originally, they were going to attend a post-party for the marathon Tuesday night.
“We’re just staying in the hotel room and ordering in,” said Entz, who had been advised not to go out in public by Boston-area TV news stations. “We feel blessed and we’re thanking God that we weren’t there at the time.”
A few hours after the blasts, Entz’s mind was still racing and she was still kind of shaky.
“It was crazy,” she said, recalling the moment. “Nobody really knew what was happening at first. We heard that first explosion. Everybody just stopped. We went back to our business then we heard the second one and my mom said, ‘That was an explosion.’ After that it was all sirens and sirens. My sister had to run three miles back to the hotel after running 26 — the poor thing.”
Erik Bost, of Rocklin, registered for the race but ended up not going because of a lingering foot injury. The 39-year-old has been running since he was 15, and it would have been his first Boston Marathon – his family would have been watching.
“I didn’t believe it” Bost said, when asked about his reaction to Monday’s events. “But I understand the venue is an international event that captures the attention of the world.”
William Bachicha, an endodontist who lives and works in Rocklin, said he was in the third wave of runners, putting him about 40 minutes behind those who started first.
"I was still on the course by the time the explosion occurred," he said. "I didn't learn about the explosion until I was about a half to three-quarters of a mile from the finish. And I saw a lot of runners and spectators, and police security on the course. So they told me to slow down because they were not letting any runners through."
Bachicha, who traveled to Boston alone, was able to gather his bag and get back to his hotel, and once he found a subway that was open, he got on a flight home. This was his 19th Boston Marathon, he said, and he said that if he has the opportunity to go back next year, he will.
The event reverberated through social media all day Monday, with Entz posting a picture of her finger pointing to a TV screen showing twisted metal barriers near the bleachers with the caption “this is where we had been sitting.” Brown also assured his Facebook friends that he was safe.
Roseville 34-year-old Bill Clements finished the race in 3:18:46 and posted on Facebook: “I AM OKAY! Please pray for others that are out there!”
Word of the events spread quickly from the East Coast to West. Rick Grimm of Cool had been working at Auburn Running Company on Lincoln Way when early reports of the news started coming in.
“It’s a tragedy for running, and the Boston Marathon is iconic. It’s the biggest marathon historically in the world, really. And, if it’s a terrorist attack, it’s a shame it has to affect running,” Grimm said. “Running is universal.”
Some 23,000 runners took part in the race.
Cynci Calvin of Auburn’s Endurance Capital Committee is the lone runner from Auburn listed in the event’s athlete tracker, and it showed she reached the 40K mark of the race in 4:33:16, with about two kilometers until the finish. She did not have a finishing time – indicating she possibly could have been stopped prior to reaching the area where the explosions occurred.
Calvin is one of several Sacramento Running Association staff members who ran in the marathon, and Executive Director John Mansoor, co-founder of the California International Marathon, said he had heard from all of them except Calvin.
Mansoor said Calvin likely would have been finishing closer to the five-hour mark, well after the blast.
“Nobody is anticipating a problem because the blast occurred at 4 hours, 9 minutes and I think Cynci would be happy to run the time, die and go to heaven if she could actually run that fast,” Mansoor said. “Obviously, everybody is in kind of state of shock at this point.”
As race director for the CIM for the past 30 years, Mansoor said what happened in Boston realized “one of my greatest fears.” It already has him planning to “ratchet up” security for the marathon in Sacramento.
“It’s nearly impossible to secure that kind of course,” he said. “There’s just not enough law enforcement available, short of bringing the National Guard. And, ironically, the National Guard did secure the course for the CIM in the first four years.
“There’s no question that this is going to change the nature of a lot of running events.”
Auburn Journal Sports Editor Matthew Kimel, Folsom Telegraph Editor Don Chaddock, Journal Staff Reporter Jon Schultz, Loomis News Editor Joyia Emard, Roseville Press Tribune Editor Krissi Khokhobashvili and Sports Editor Bill Poindexter contributed to this story. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.