Seven town residents participated in the Boston Marathon Monday, including two who said they completed the race shortly before twin explosions went off near the finish line.
"I think for people who aren’t runners, they don’t necessarily understand what the Boston Marathon means. But for people who run, this is the mecca of all running," said Stephen Dorrough, 46. "This is the premier event to showcase your dedication, your talent, it’s a big deal and it’s difficult to qualify for, it’s not something that anyone can just do."
419 runners from Connecticut registered for Monday's race, according to the Boston Athletic Association, including the seven from Glastonbury.
Dorrough said he trained for three years and competed in five qualifying marathons before finally earning a spot in Boston. His chances at seriously competing were dashed by a stress fracture in his ankle which had not fully healed by race day, but Dorrough said he was just happy to be in the field of runners.
"I finished the race in a little over four hours, four 'oh one, and in some respects that's an embarrassingly slow time," Dorrough said. "The goal was not to finish the race quickly, the bigger goal was to get there."
Dorrough said competing in the Boston Marathon was a passion he shared with a brother in Oregon, and preparing for the race kept them close despite the geographic distance between them. The brothers would connect online to share training and nutrition tips and compare strategies, and run together whenever possible.
His work requires a lot of international travel, Dorrough said, making it difficult to squeeze in his training routine of 70 miles per week. He once jogged 16 miles in the parking lot of O'Hare Airport in Chicago when a flight was delayed, has trained in dangerous regions of South Africa, and ran in 100 degree weather in China.
"It was a big deal to get here," Dorrough said. "You're following in the path of all the great runners. This is where they go, this is where they compete."
On the day of the race, Dorrough said his wife Kit and three of his children, ages 16, 13, and 11, were waiting for him near the finish line along with his sister-in-law, nephew and niece. His brother had finished the race about an hour earlier and left the area, and his fourth child is in college and did not travel to Boston, Dorrough said.
He had just crossed the finish line, picked up his medal for participating in the race, and was headed to retrieve his wallet, cell phone, and other personal items when he heard a blast from about 200 yards away.
"You turn around and look at it and think, wow, that is not right," Dorrough said. "Moments later there was a second blast a little bit further away. I think what was scarier about the second blast is I realized that was where my family had been waiting for me."
Dorrough said his family had moved away from the area shortly before the explosion, and he was able to call his son and make sure everyone was safe, though he was so tired he had difficulty dialing.
"You're body's just beat up, mentally you're exhausted, emotionally you're exhausted," Dorrough said. "Had this not happened it still is a very emotional day, because it's just kind of the culmination of three years of work to get here."
Dorrough said no one in his group was injured and they were far enough away from the explosions that they were spared having to witness the gory aftermath.
"I could see smoke, and I think that's mostly what I saw, smoke. It seemed to go up a couple stories," Dorrough said.
He and his family found each other and made their way to the Marriott hotel in Copley Square where Dorrough's brother had a room, and were eventually allowed to return to their car at a nearby parking garage and returned home to Glastonbury around midnight.
His brother's room on the 22nd floor of the Marriott offered Dorrough a bird's-eye view of emergency workers rushing to the scene, "which was phenomenal," he said. "That was surprising to me, given how many people were down there watching... that they were able to get that area cleared out and get all those emergency vehicles in."
While he's been considering retiring from marathoning because of the time commitment and physical toll, Donnough said that Monday's bombings, "will not change the way I approach participating in events like this."
But, he added, "on the one hand you look at it and say, 'this was supposed to be a day that I could remember as having accomplished a goal that's very difficult to achieve.' But walking from the hotel at nine at night, thoughts of marathoning and you know, middle-age glory, really were not important at all. You realize that there's things in life that are much more important than some of these goals that we set for ourselves."
Another Glastonbury runner who participated Monday said he's grateful to have gotten home unscathed, and would like to help those who were not as fortunate.
"I feel like, what should I be doing, can I do anything to help out?" said Roy Krause, 41, who completed the marathon for a sixth time shortly before the explosions. "I'm obviously back down here in Connecticut but it's like, what do I do?"
Krause said he traveled to the marathon with about 40 other runners and 10 volunteers from the Hartford Track Club, and everyone in that group made it home safely.
"Everybody I know was okay, I had finished the race and cleaned myself up and I was meeting with family and friends. We were a block and a half away when the explosions occurred," Krause said.
Krause said he didn't hear the explosions but others around him apparently did, and a few minutes later his wife called to check on him after hearing news of the bombings from a neighbor.
Just before the bombs went off, Krause said he'd been planning to use his VIP pass to make his way over to the finish area, but "good thing that we did not." After the blasts, his group went to the Marriott Hotel, which was locked down soon after.
Once that order was lifted, Krause said he and others from the track club went to their designated meeting place at the Back Bay Hotel, but friends had to come downstairs to the front door before staff would let him into the building.
Police and security staff barred people from traveling together in large groups, so Krause said the club left in small packs of about 15 people and walked to where their bus was parked beyond a cordoned-off area around the hotel.
"The police had worked with the security there at the hotel, and two people who were in charge of the club group were in communication with police, with the bus company, and with the staff at the hotel, on how to get us out safely," Krause said. "There were some people who were obviously runners and other people who were kind of walking around near the finish line; couldn't get to their stuff, didn't know where to go."
Krause said that while normally there are volunteers to help runners at the race finish, the chaos after the explosions made it so the uninjured had to fend for themselves. Krause's brother and father traveled to the race with him, and he said his brother ended up helping a wheelchair racer who was attempting to push both his regular chair and his racing model down the street by himself.
Krause said that as he crossed the finish line, he high-fived a friend who was standing very close to where one bomb later detonated and didn't immediately know whether he was hurt.
"It was an hour and a half, almost two hours later that I found out he was okay," Krause said, adding that the friend had decided to leave the finish line area about 20 minutes before the explosions.
While cell phone service "was going in and out," Krause said he received messages from friends as far away as China and Italy who had heard about the bombings and wanted to check on him, and he was able to send text messages every so often, letting loved ones know he was safe. "It was kind of surreal," Krause said.
Runner Roxanne Stepnowski, 39, said today that she completed the marathon about 45 minutes before the bombs detonated, and was already on the highway driving home when she heard about the blasts. Everyone she had traveled to the race with was also uninjured and got home safely, Stepnowski said.
Marathon participants Joseph Jaconetta, 51, Arthur Byram, 49 have been accounted for, and others from Glastonbury who competed could not be reached for comment.
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun