ELKHART — Loretta LeCount thought her participation in the Boston Marathon would be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Literally.
“But now, instead of it making me fearful, it makes me want to run it all the more,” the Elkhart woman said Friday, April 19, of the terrorism at Monday’s marathon that left three dead and 176 injured.
“I want to run again because I want to show they can’t beat us,” LeCount, 55, said of the alleged terrorists. “I didn’t think I would run it more than once, but I am qualified for next year, so now I think I probably will.”
Fellow first-timers Keith Gladfelter, 49, of Goshen and Bekah Shenk, 27, of Elkhart say they have no qualms about returning, either, though Gladfelter says he’s not sure he’ll ever qualify again and Shenk hasn’t made definitive plans.
“I think these events in some way would make people feel more likely to run it,” Shenk said, “because you wouldn’t want the evil decisions of a few people to cause everyone to lose out. You have to move forward.”
The two explosions Monday occurred near the finish line about 15 seconds apart.
Among the 23,336 runners participating in the marathon were five finishers from Elkhart County — Middlebury’s Andy Williams (68th overall in 2 hours, 28 minutes, 29 seconds), Shenk (3:34:33), Bristol’s Karissa Cominator (3:40:49), Gladfelter (3:43:13) and LeCount (4:04:02) — and a handful from the surrounding area.
None, though, finished nearly as close to the explosions as LeCount.
Video shows the first explosion happened at 4 hours, 9 minutes, 44 seconds on a scoreboard clock over the finish line.
Though LeCount’s official time was 4:04:02, she says her time as she passed the clock was around 4:07, putting her even closer to the explosions.
“The scariest thing is if any of my family had been there, they could’ve been walking right around that area because that was just after I finished,” LeCount said. “I come from a big family (husband Denny, two adult sons, four sisters, two brothers), and the funniest thing is nobody could go. Some wanted to go, but couldn’t make it. It felt weird that nobody could go, but now I thank God for that.”
Gladfelter is similarly thankful.
“I called Heather and thanked her for having a golf tournament,” he said of his daughter who plays for Drury University in Springfield, Mo., “because if she didn’t, my wife (Beth) probably would’ve been in Boston watching me instead of out there watching her. Probably the hardest thing for me was hearing that 8-year-old boy was killed watching his father run.”
LeCount was a scant half-block away amid other runners when the first explosion sounded.
“Everybody kind looked at each other and thought, ‘That was really loud. What was that?’” LeCount said. “It sounded like an air cannon, and then after the second one went off, you could hear screaming, and some people were running toward us. We started running, not fast-fast, but somewhat fast. You just wanted to make sure you were getting away from it and you didn’t know if there was going to be another one. The second one sounded like it was a lot closer than the first (though it was actually farther from her).”
“I was amazed at how loud the sound was,” said Gladfelter, who estimated he was 2½ blocks away, picking up his gear. “We didn’t know if it was (intentional) or something mechanical, but honestly, it sounded like a building collapsing. It was a mess. Thousands of people, streets closed off, and 45 minutes later emergency vehicles still trying to get in with all the heavy traffic.”
It was only later through media reports or information shared by loved ones that most runners learned the explosions were intentional.
“I think almost nobody injured was a runner,” pointed out Shenk, who was about three blocks away at the time of the explosions and was joined in Boston by a brother, uncle and aunt, all of them safe.
“It was fans and volunteers who got hurt, and the whole thing makes me really angry,” Shenk said. “I’m told there were close to 500,000 fans along the course, and I know they helped me along. I wouldn’t have been able to run as well as I did without their enthusiastic support. It’s such a positive atmosphere there and I hope that it will be fully restored.”