Eyewitness: Scots runner recounts Boston horror

A mourner kneels at a memorial for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Picture: Reuters
A mourner kneels at a memorial for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Picture: Reuters
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KATIE Gray, an Edinburgh woman who was caught up in the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured hundreds, recounts her experience as she approached the finish line

If you mention the phrase “right on Boylston” to most marathon runners throughout the world, they’ll immediately know you’re talking about the Boston Marathon. It’s a fantastic finish to an amazing race.

I had been running for almost four hours when I finally made the iconic turn. It had been a beautiful day with great crowds and incredible support. And no matter how tired you are, when you hit Boylston, you find one more burst of energy to carry you the third of a mile toward the finish line. I made the left turn, moved over to the right hand side of the street, passed the 26 mile marker and knew I was going to finish strong just 100 yards ahead.

I had just passed Ring Road with Lord and Taylor on my right when I heard a huge noise which could have been a very large cannon, a thunder strike or worse. Within milliseconds, I saw the smoke rising up to the the left hand side of the finish line. Being a bit confused, I stopped and headed toward the barricades on the right hand side of the street. I turned around and came face to face with a Boston police officer. We made eye contact for only a second before he ran past me toward the explosion. As he left my field of sight, the second explosion happened. The same horrible noise and the same thick smoke.

It had only been seconds, but seemed much longer. After the second blast, the spectators on the side of the road started to push the barricades over and head out into the street. By this point, although I didn’t know what was really going on, I decided finishing the last 100 yards was really not important. I ran back to Ring Road (the only road perpendicular to Boylston) to head away from the explosions. Although I was conscious that there might be another blast, I thought I just needed to get out of there.

I ran up the road and met people that heard the noise but didn’t know what it was. As I tried to explain to them, through my tears, that there had been two explosions, I began to hyperventilate. The woman calmed me down as others started making their way off of Boylston. Although people were crying and stunned, no one panicked and everyone continued to help others. (A runner who had finished the race and was helping me up the street offered me his finisher’s medal which only made me cry a bit more.)

Strangers helped me try to reach my friends on their cell phones as I made my way over to the family meeting area. They helped me once again when my leg cramped and I fell. They continued to help me by giving me a jacket to keep me warm and then someone finally reached my friend to tell her I was OK.

Back at the hotel, employees were handing out water, blankets, towels and doing anything they could to help the runners, their families and friends.

As I left the hotel on Tuesday morning, all of Boston was still helping anyone they could. Although my heart breaks for the innocent people involved in the horrific events, I was heartened by the response of Boston and its people.