Whitehorse runner Kelly Proudfoot was 200 metres past the Boston Marathon finish line when the bombs went off. She easily could have been closer.
Proudfoot was one of more than 27,000 people on Monday testing themselves against one of the most celebrated running races in the world. Yukon MP Ryan Leef and Keith Thaxter were also in the race. More than a half-million more people lined the streets for the final kilometres to cheer on the athletes surging for the finish line.
No one expected that crowd would be torn apart by twin explosions in the midst of the revelry and joy.
Four hours after the race began, two bombs exploded almost simultaneously at the finish line, killing three and injuring more than 170 others. All three Yukoners had finished before the twin explosions rocked Boylston Street. Authorities have said the bombings are being treated as an act of terrorism.
“I was not too far away, maybe 200 metres, but I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t see anything because we were trying to leave. You go through stages and you’re basically herded like cattle. I heard explosions, but I thought it was cannons for Patriots’ Day or something,” Proudfoot said in a phone interview from Boston on Monday.
“We sprinted the last two kilometres, and I’m glad. I’m very glad. I was really sick even during the race, so really it should have been a hell of a lot slower run for me. I was running with my friend and she really pushed me. I’m so glad because I would have been … I don’t even want to think about where I would have been,” she said.
“The hardest part for me was seeing the finish line (on the news) because we were just there. Literally we were just there, and all of a sudden we see this bomb go off at this place we just were,” Proudfoot said.
Proudfoot’s boyfriend, Gordon Tentrees, was also in Boston, but not in the race. Instead, he was a few blocks from the finish line, waiting for Proudfoot to finish when he heard the blasts.
“I’m walking in the direction of the finish line and looking at it, and thinking this is where I’m supposed to be picking her up. As it went off, I was thinking, well … you know … ,” he recounted, his voice trailing off.
“You don’t even want to say it,” Tentrees said. “Two bombs just went off right in front of you. You don’t even want to think it, you know? It’s a weird thing. You’re watching a marathon and thinking I just saw a marathon with a bomb, the Boston Marathon.”
Hours after the bombings, Tentrees and Proudfoot were safely back at their bed and breakfast, but it wasn’t easy to get there.
“Immediately everyone started running. It started setting in within 10 seconds. There were thousands of people all getting over a marathon, and so much pandemonium going on with the race itself. All around us, people are yelling on cellphones and saying, ‘There’s bombs going off,’ and there are other runners saying, ‘I just need some water.’
“It was quite a strange contrast to be in. We were stuck in it. We couldn’t walk anywhere so we just went inside a pizza place and this group of eight of us from Canada just kind of sat there, because it was just panic everywhere. There were rumours flying around that there were more bombs,” Tentrees said.
The emergency response to the explosions was immediate, Tentrees said, and the city shut down. The couple ended up walking 10 kilometres back to their bed and breakfast with the sound of sirens trailing behind them.
Yukon MP Ryan Leef finished the race in three hours and 12 minutes, putting him about four blocks away when the carnage unfolded.
“It’s shocking, just unbelievable. I’m catching up more and more on the news from other people now. You can’t even define what a tragedy it is down there,” he said on Monday from Boston.
Leef said he hadn’t heard the blasts and didn’t know anything was wrong until his cellphone started ringing frantically.
“I had cleared out of the whole finishing area and my phone just started going off the hook with people from Ottawa and friends and family from the Yukon calling, asking if I was OK. I knew then that something horrible was going on,” he said.
While this kind of horror is never justified, attacking a running race that is both a celebration of community and individual struggle is incomprehensible, Leef said.
“You truly don’t run Boston, you experience it. From the start line to the finish there wasn’t one section of that road that wasn’t a thousand people out cheering. Kids, community people, front-yard barbecues, thousands and thousands of spectators cheering. To have it end in tragedy like this is just beyond comprehension,” Leef said.
On Tuesday back in the House of Commons, Leef read a motion condemning the violence and pledging Canada’s support to Boston. The motion passed unanimously.
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