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Framingham selectman recounts Marathon experience

Posted by Tom Coakley  April 16, 2013 02:22 PM

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Mike Bower said he has not run his last Boston Marathon, despite the ordeal caused by yesterday's bombings that took three lives and caused scores of injuries.

The newly elected Framingham Selectman was running in yesterday's marathon for charity, but never made it to the finish line. Bower said he began running Monday with a sense of optimism that he would meet his goal of finishing the race at 4 hours 30 minutes.

"I was running a good race, and I was on target to hit that goal," he said. "The crowds were fantastic. People were out in droves. It was such a festive day."

Then Bower was stopped at the Massachusetts Avenue underpass, about two miles from the finish line, where police had stopped runners from going further. It was there that the runners learned of the death and destruction caused by two explosions at the finish line.

"Things turned from joy to sadness," he said, "People started crying."

Bower said that runners still wanted to get to the finish line, not to finish the race, but to check on loved ones waiting for them. "Not being able to get anywhere near them was quite distressful." he said.

The first thing on Bower's mind was to check on his friend, Framingham resident John Shi, who had been waiting for Bower at the bleachers near the finish line on Boylston Street. "It was anguish," he said.

Bower, who was stuck with other runners on Commonwealth Avenue, recounted how Bostonians literally opened their doors to the runners, and let them use their homes and their phones. "The residents all came out offering food and beverages and the use of cell phones. It was a wonderful display of Bostonians' hospitality," Bower said.

Bower said he was invited to one resident's studio apartment to use a phone. "There were about 30 runners in there, crying. I got through to my parents and told them I was safe," he said, but still couldn't get through to Shi, with whom Bower shares a residence.

Eventually, Bower said he was able to learn that Shi was all right, but that his friend had witnessed the devastation from the grandstands and was badly shaken.

"He's very reserved and is not up to talking about it," Bower said. "It's survivor's guilt. That's hard to cope with."

Meanwhile, Bower said that he has been touched by the concern that the Framingham community has shown him. "The phone's been ringing off the hook. Facebook has lit up with hundreds of messages," he said.

Bower said he is undeterred by yesterday's events, and is looking forward to running the Boston Marathon again, just as he has for the last several years.

"As long as I'm physically fit, I'll continue to doing this for as many years as I can," he said.

"I'm even more determined to show up next April, and show the lunatics that they're not going to take the spirit out of the City of Boston. We have to be resilient, and that we're not going to let people deter us. We saw that after 9/11, and we'll see that here."

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