English Professor Mike Slowik finished the Boston Marathon with a time of three hours and 22 minutes. Forty-five minutes later, at about 4 hours, two bombs exploded at the finish line, killing three and injuring over 170.
The race had started at 10 a.m. Slowik and the other runners had arrived by shuttle to the site around 6 to 6:30 a.m.
“You just hang out with a group of enthusiastic people, many of whom it’s their lifelong dream to run the Boston Marathon,” said Slowik.
He said that the race was not very competitive, unless the runners were going for personal goals.
“Everybody’s very complimentary and encouraging of each other as you’re going through the race,” said Slowik. “I did feel a sort of kinship with them I guess although I did leave the site by that point.”
Slowik did not notice security much during the race, since mostly everyone, from the crowd to the runners, were focused on the race. He did say he noticed a lot of police officers at the start and throughout the race. He did not remember the finish line as much, since he was tired out from the race.
“My sense was that the security was really good and it was a rare circumstance that something slipped through,” said Slowik.
He said he was considering walking the last six to eight miles.
“You never necessarily think about the fact that you might be in some kind of danger until after you learn about it and you start feeling very fortunate that it went the way that it did,” said Slowik. “If I had been a slower runner, who knows where I would have been exactly when the bombs went off.”
Slowik’s wife and parents were at the finish to watch him complete the marathon. He thought the finish was just as normal as the other seven marathons he had done before.
After the race, Slowik and his wife caught the red line train to the Tufts University area, about five miles from downtown Boston. He believes the explosions happened as they got onto the subway. Slowik said the train was in the same area where the suspects lived and were caught.
After getting off the subway, they started to receive text messages about explosions occurring in downtown Boston. He believed the news was nothing more than a bomb scare at first. Then, they walked into a restaurant, where they saw the videos of the explosions.
“It was like a totally different world. It was like it happened in a different state at a different time,” said Slowik. “It was just so different from any finish line I have ever seen. I sort of recognized there was the banner you finished under, there were the crowds, but it looked like a war zone. I was horrified but I think it took awhile for it to really sink in just because it looked so different from what I had just seen when I was down there 45 minutes earlier.”
Slowik and his wife had planned to meet the friend whose apartment they left their belongings. However, the friend did not feel comfortable using public transportation after hearing about the blasts. He was sure most public transportation was suspended anyway.
They were stranded near Tufts University for awhile. Around 7 p.m., they decided to take Interstate 93 back to downtown Boston. Although the highway was relatively clear, they saw many police cars going in both directions and armored cars going toward Boston.
“The city had a very different feel to it and I did not see very many people out on the streets,” said Slowik. “Fortunately my friend’s apartment was just a few blocks off from I-93 so we were able to get the backpack and leave without a problem.”
They were able to get home safety to Allentown around midnight.
Although Slowik and his wife got home, he had friends and family that experienced the continuing turmoil in the city; the lockdown, manhunt and capture of the suspects. He praised the FBI police and everyone that was involved in identifying and capturing the suspects so quickly.
“I figured the suspects would be identified at the very least because it’s such a heavily photographed and videotaped event,” said Slowik.
He also felt sympathy for the runners that got injured from the blasts.
“I think nobody realized what the magnitude of injury was of people who were near the bomb blasts,” said Slowik. “I didn’t recognize anyone in particular but these were runners I spent the last six hours with basically in one way or another.”
Knowing the feeling of finishing the race exhausted, he praised the efforts of runners to run to the local hospital and donate blood.
“At the end of a marathon I am completely wiped out I don’t want to walk another step,” said Slowik. “So to have that energy, to be so directed toward someone else, I think it’s a wonderful gesture. It doesn’t surprise me, but it is still kind of remarkable.”
Slowik will continue to run marathons because he does not want to sacrifice running due to an incident like this.
“I think its really important to persevere and to defiantly come back and do the same thing next year,” he said. “I hope the crowds are twice as big as they were last year, cheering just as loud as they did, and I suspect they will.”
By Emily Leayman