Featured marathon runners safe, but shaken by events

Participants in the Boston Marathon featured in a story in last Sunday’s Globe South about running for various charities are counting their blessings that they and the friends and family who were on hand are safe following the finish-line bombings that killed three and injured more than 170.

Heather (Rue) Cline of Canton, Eric Alexander of Quincy,

Yeemay Su Miller of Hanover, James Davis and Jeff Pransky of Norton, Melissa Bowers of Middleborough, and Kerry Walker of Hanson did not finish the race, but that does not matter, they said afterward.

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What does matter is getting on with lives, forever altered, they said, even as they remember and pray for those who have been affected far more profoundly.

It was Cline’s first Marathon as a participant, having been a spectator for 10 prior ones when Tom Nealon of Miami ran for the American Liver Foundation, honoring Cline’s son, Zachary, who has liver disease. Nealon could not run this year for health reasons, so Cline did, with Nealon walking the course with her. In past years, she and Zachary would wait at the finish line for him.

“I told Tom I was so thankful he was with me — it was a blessing I was so slow,” Cline said Tuesday, choking up. “If he’d gone on ahead. . . . God forbid . . .”

They were far back when the bombs exploded, and she and Nealon saw ambulances race by — with attendants inside wearing hard hats. When they got to their charity’s race headquarters, it was packed with crying runners desperately trying to phone loved ones.

The surreal scene “seemed like a movie,” Cline said. “It was bizarre.”

Miller, running for the South Boston Neighborhood House, was a half-mile from the finish when runners were stopped near the Commonwealth Avenue tunnel, not knowing why. Spectators fired up cellphones, the reason quickly becoming graphically evident in photos and social media.

Miller said she was feeling secure at first knowing her husband and their three children were waiting in Newton with other friends. Until a recollection chilled her.

“The day before, my husband casually said he and the kids would try making the finish line,” Miller said. “I didn’t know if he had.”

Using a spectator’s phone, she called and got no answer, but finally texted him, breathing a sigh of relief when she learned they were OK. Later, she hugged them harder than she ever had, she said.

“I put on Facebook how lucky we were. I have an 8-year-old son, and I thought of that poor boy,” she said of Martin Richard, 8, of Dorchester, who was killed as he watched the finishers on Boylston Street.

Davis, who with husband Pransky ran for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, said by e-mail he was a half-mile from the finish when the bombs went off. He was not there yet because he had opted to start the race with friends in later groupings, forfeiting his earlier one.

“Thankful I did that, as I would have been farther along and perhaps in the blast zone,” he said, adding he found Pransky minutes later. “We are both thankful to be safe.”

Walker and four friends ran on team Fab 5 for the Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center in Hopkinton. By e-mail, Walker said one of her teammates, Jenn Richardson of Pembroke, had just finished the race and was at the area where the bombs went off, but was not hurt. The other friends were farther back on the course.

“Scary, frantic moments trying to account for all of us and the dozens of family and friends that we knew were along the finish line, waiting for us to finish,” Walker wrote. “We are all very, very thankful but saddened for the families affected” and for “the city and the tradition of the race.”

Alexander, a former New England Patriots linebacker running for the Myra Kraft Community MVP Awards Program, was a half-mile away when he heard the news, borrowing a phone to check on his girlfriend and others. He could not get through for a desperate hour until he made contact.

“We’re deeply saddened by this,” said Alexander. “But from what I can tell, it seems like people are going to get through this and come out stronger.”

Melissa Bowers of Middleborough, a cancer survivor running for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team, said her husband and three children were going to meet her and accompany her to the finish. She was at the 25.5-mile mark when the race stopped. She frantically called her husband, reaching him after a few minutes of harrowing uncertainty.

Looking back, she said she would have finished sooner had she not run with a friend who was slower, keeping pace with her. If not for that, she could have been at the finish line with family when the bombs exploded.

“I watched the news later. Being there . . . in that state of mind . . . it didn’t make sense,” she said. “Today, I’m just in shock.”

She said a friend was 15 or 20 feet from the second bomb, suffering minor ear damage but witnessing firsthand the carnage.

“People should never have to see what she saw,” said Bowers.

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