BOSTON — A sunny and satisfying scene at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon turned tragic Monday afternoon after two blasts in quick succession turned celebration into tragedy.
At least two people died and two dozen were injured in the explosions.
Each year, the Boston Athletic Association invites back former champions who are celebrating milestone anniversaries.
It’s a largely ceremonial affair, and if the aging runners are still able to make their way through the entire 26 miles, 385 yards, all the better.
Monday’s 117th running of the Boston Marathon marked the 30th anniversary of a world-record performance by Joan Benoit Samuelson, who had more in mind than a curtain call.
“I went a little bit out on a limb,” she said. “I like to tell stories with my marathons, so I thought it appropriate to set a goal of trying to and finish within 30 minutes of my time from 30 years ago.”
Samuelson not only did so – reaching Copley Square in 2 hours, 50 minutes, 29 seconds three decades after she blazed to a 2:22:43 as a 25-year-old – she also torched the 55-59 age group world record (2:52:14) that was set 15 years ago in Chicago.
“I felt good, I felt strong,” Samuelson said. “It’s nice to know that I can come back 30 years later and run in the wake of these fine women and our two great Americans, Kara and Shalane.”
That would be Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan, who hail from Duluth, Minn., and Marblehead, Mass. They were sixth and fourth, respectively, and teared up when talking about the crowds in Boston yearning for another American champion.
“The thing about this race is that the Bostonians want it just as much as we do,” Flanagan said after Goucher backed away from the microphone to regain her composure in a post-race press conference inside the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. “We want to be that person. We want to be the next Joanie.”
Other Mainers had banner races Monday. Sheri Piers, 41, of Falmouth won $5,000 for finishing second among female masters, in 2:39:25, and Mary Pardi, 43, also of Falmouth, won $1,500 for fourth, in 2:48:42.
Piers placed 20th overall.
Rob Gomez of Saco was on a 2:18 pace until about 18 miles before struggling home in 2:22:53, faster than he has ever run and good for 32nd place overall.
“I’m very happy to have this opportunity to come out and follow my dream,” Gomez said. “I work at General Dynamics in Saco and they just laid off 100 people last week. So to be able to come down here and have this be my biggest worry, I’m very lucky.”
Mike McMahan (bib 22,496) from Maple Grove, Minn., was gathering his gear after the race, his 20th marathon but first time at Boston, when he heard the first explosion.
“It was before the arch of the finish,” he said. “The first was a plume of smoke, like gray-white. Then problem 10 seconds later came the second one. I saw flames coming from the second one.”
His wife, Krista, was still on the course. They made contact, and she told him she had been diverted at Mile 25 1/2.
“I’m not sure how she’s going to get here (in the locked-down Copley Plaza Hotel). I’ll feel better when she’s here.”
McMahan had flashbacks from Sept. 11th, 2001, when he and his wife were on a flight to Detroit when news of the terrorist attacks caused the plane to be turned around and sent back to Minneapolis.
“It’s craziness,” he said. Both McMahans are 41.