Marathon runners react to Boston bombing

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Supplied photo courtesy of Tom Clifford 

Boston Marathon race director, Dave McGillivray, right, was the keynote speaker at the Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon pasta dinner in March 2013. Wrightsville Beach marathon race director, Tom Clifford, met McGillivray there. 

 Local marathon runner Jen Peterken had just clocked in at 3 hours and 44 minutes for her first Boston Marathon and was walking back to find her friends.

“I was just about to cross over the barricade when I heard two big booms and we didn’t know what they were,” Peterken said. “A policeman was right there at the barricade and I told him I needed to get up there with my friends … and he said, ‘That’s fine but we don’t know what just happened so if everybody starts running back towards you, turn around and run.’”

What followed was an hour of continued confusion for Peterken and many others not immediately in the vicinity of the bombing. 

“There were tons of people there cheering, the whole city was excited for the race and then you hear the two booms and the city was silent, everybody just stopped in their tracks,” she said. “It was just eerie.” 

After locating all but one of her friends, they made their way back to their hotel and discovered what had happened in the crowd-filled hotel lobby. There they were reunited with their missing friend. 

“We opened the door to the hotel room and our friend that was missing was standing there and we all just hugged her and cried,” Peterken said. 

Back in Wilmington, Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon race director, Tom Clifford, said  after the bombing it was difficult to get in contact with the 10 people he coached for the marathon. 

“Once everyone was accounted for, there was a sigh of relief, but then, like the rest of the country it was a shock,” Clifford said. 

Clifford befriended the Boston Marathon’s race director, Dave McGillivray, at the 2013 beach marathon where McGillivray was the keynote speaker at the marathon’s pasta dinner. If there was anyone prepared for a tragedy like this it was McGillivray, Clifford said. 

“He is the kind of guy who will take care of a situation and handle it with the most professionalism,” he said. “One of the things he said here was the safety of his participants is his No. 1 concern. I know that whatever the decisions were he made they were the best decisions anyone could have made; I’m sure of it.”

Before the next beach marathon, which is a Boston Marathon qualifier, Clifford said he would observe what other race directors are doing, talk to other directors and see what precautions they are going to take at the start or the finish line. 

“People still have to live and people have to go their way, do what they are going to do and not be afraid, and that is all we can do,” he said.


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