Grant Cline’s first Boston Marathon on Monday became unforgettable and tragic when three people were killed and more than 170 were injured in explosions at the 117-year-old event.
Bostonians celebrated their 238th annual Patriots Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord in the Revolutionary War, but no one envisioned the war-like carnage that would be unleashed Monday in Boston, where survivors lost limbs in battlefield fashion and an 8-year-old boy and two others died.
“There is evil in this world,” said Cline, 56, of Bowling Green, who qualified for Monday’s 26.2-mile run a year ago. “If I’m 25 minutes later, I’d been in the middle of that,” he said of the blasts.
Cline is a Fed Ex route driver who graduated from Warren Central High School in 1975.
“A lot of times, events are overshadowed with evil. It is just a tragedy. It affected so many people,” he said.
Before Monday, Cline had run marathons in Chicago, New York and Louisville. Running the Boston Marathon was “unbelievable,” he said, because of the large crowd’s enthusiastic support.
“God gave us a great day to run,” he said.
Last year, the temperatures in Boston zoomed into the 80s on race day, but this year they were in a more comfortable range, the 30s and 40s, he said.
While he was waiting to rejoin his wife, Windy, and pulling on some outerwear, she approached him and said she’d heard a second explosion. He’d been so busy pulling on clothes that he hadn’t heard it.
As he talked by phone about the race Monday, he looked out the 17th-floor window of the hotel in which he was staying to a see a strange scene: Downtown Boston in police lockdown.
Cline said he trained 16 weeks to run his first Boston Marathon, dropping more than 15 pounds off his 6-foot-6-inch frame to be race ready.
Cort Basham, 36, was resting after finishing his third Boston Marathon when he heard the explosions.
“They were really loud booms,” said Basham, who teaches interdisciplinary studies at Western Kentucky University.
Basham has been nursing a foot injury, so when he ran Monday, he paced himself more than usual. When he finished the race and collected his medal, he heard the first blast.
“I had never heard anything like that,” said Basham, who finished the race about 45 minutes before the first explosion. “People ducked into hotels,” he said.
Lilly Wheet, 53, who owns TRAXrunning at 1240 Fairview Ave., didn’t run the Boston Marathon this year because of a knee issue, but she did run it in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Through cellphone calls and other communication Monday, she was able to find out that the local runners who participated were safe in the aftermath of the explosions.
“This is very upsetting to me,” she said.
Matt Davis, 46, who participated in the wheelchair portion of the race, finished about a half-hour off his normal pace due to a flat tire that he had to change, he said.
Davis was headed out of Boston to a New Hampshire airport and missed the police lockdown. Davis, coordinator of Student Disability Services at WKU, participated in his fourth Boston Marathon.
“You are not safe anywhere,” he said. “From now on, the Boston Marathon is going to have a different feel.”
Basham said the blasts occurred at a time during the race when a large number of participants usually cross the finish line after about four hours of running.
“I don’t know why anyone would do this,” Basham said.
— TRAXrunning will host a “Runners United to Remember” run at 6 a.m. Friday at Kereiakes Park to commemorate the people who were killed and injured in the attacks. Runners can meet at the lower parking lot close to the basketball courts.