Area runners remember marathon

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman Staff Writer
As tragedy touched the nation last week in Boston, some Woodinville residents experienced it firsthand.

Six Woodinville residents and seven Bothell residents ran in this year’s Boston Marathon on Monday, where two bombs exploded, killing three people and wounding at least 170. One suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a gunfight with police early Friday morning.

Police caught the other suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Friday evening after Boston residents had been warned to stay inside all day.

Carol Sexton of Woodinville has run marathons before, but this was her first Boston Marathon. She had finished the marathon about 20 or 30 minutes before the first bomb went off and met up with her daughter, a student at Boston University.

They were about a block away from the finish line when they heard the first bomb, but they didn’t know what it was at first. Sexton thought it might have been a cannon, to celebrate Patriots’ Day, the Massachusetts holiday commemorating the first battles of the American Revolutionary War.

“It did not sound like a bomb, honestly,” Sexton said. But after she and her daughter heard another explosion, “it didn’t seem quite right.”

They decided to get away from the area of the race and eventually walked three miles back to the hotel where Sexton was staying. When family and friends texted to ask if they were safe, they eventually learned that two bombs had gone off.

Rob Auster, another Woodinville resident, was playing softball in Woodinville and using a phone app to track his son Ryan’s progress in the marathon. When he heard that bombs had gone off, he knew Ryan had just passed the last mile marker.

“You don’t have any idea what the extent of the injuries are,” Rob Auster said. “It was pretty frustrating and a lot of pressure.” He was unable to get in touch with Rob for the first hour or two after the explosions.

Ryan Auster said he and a friend had run about 24.5 miles of the marathon when they heard the first bomb go off. But “there was no indication at all” whether the explosion they heard was violent or dangerous, or if it was part of the celebrations.

Ryan, a Boston resident who works at the Boston Museum of Science, kept running, passing a sign that told him he was one mile from the finish line. He wanted to meet up with his girlfriend and the rest of his training team, who were waiting near the finish line. As he approached Boylston Street, where the finish line was, the police were shouting for people to move away.

Instead, he stopped in a Cheesecake Factory to recharge his phone. Once he could send texts again, he met up with his girlfriend and they walked several miles to get home.

Ryan Auster’s girlfriend had been sitting in the VIP section by the finish line. She saw the explosions but wasn’t injured.

“We were all kind of in a state of shock,” he said. “I don’t remember being very emotional then, but there was a point where I broke down in hysterics on the way back.” In the days after the bombings, he felt guilty for putting his girlfriend and friends in danger, even unintentionally.

In the days after the marathon, Sexton said she also worried that she could have caused danger to her daughter — if, for example, they had waited near the finish line instead of going to eat as soon as Sexton finished.

“I’m kind of a person who, it takes me a while to get the emotions out,” Sexton said. “It was very surreal. It was, after the fact, much more concerning ... I keep waking up [during the night] because of that.”

Both Sexton and Ryan Auster said they would run the Boston Marathon again.

“I didn’t get to experience the Boston Marathon the way I wanted to,” Ryan Auster said. “Part of it’s stubborn pride. When they talk about ‘Boston Strong,’ everyone is determined not to let this alter our way of life.”

On Wednesday, Auster and other runners who hadn’t finished the race before the bombs went off picked up their medals. “That was the BAA’s [Boston Athletic Association] symbol that the race would go on, which was very cool,” he said.

Sexton still plans to run the Seattle Marathon in June, although she wonders if security at races will change.

“It doesn’t stop runners,” she said.

Other local runners in this year’s Boston Marathon were: Jaime Eaton, Ben Lane, Erin McPherson, Stacy Wingard, and Brett Withers from Woodinville; and Hui Jin, Tina Neil, Julie Nelson, Suzanne Nester, Suzanne Robbins, Julia Walters-Burns, and Karra Whitmire from Bothell.

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