Sacramento racers describe chaos, confusion after Boston Marathon blasts

Published: Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 10A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2013 - 7:10 am

With shock waves from Monday's explosions rippling across the country, three Sacramento residents who ran the Boston Marathon described the chaos that erupted at the finish line.

Carrie Young said she was tired but focused on her pace at 25.5 miles – less than a mile from the finish line – when race officials abruptly ordered her and the pack of runners to stop. She said she didn't see or hear the blasts, but she was aware of "sirens going everywhere."

"Nobody knew what was going on," said Young, a part-time coach for Fleet Feet running store in Sacramento. "Everyone was like, 'You're stopping us?' We didn't know what was going on."

She stood with other runners waiting for word to resume running or other instructions. After about 10 minutes, family members who had been waiting for her two blocks from the finish line found her on the course and told her what happened.

"They said, 'You're not going to finish,' " Young said. " 'We need to go.' "

Robert MacLaughlin, one of an estimated 100 Sacramento-area residents running the Boston Marathon this year, completed the race before the blasts. Afterward, he made a beeline to collect his gear after crossing the finish line in three hours and 41 minutes. He then rushed a block away to the Westin hotel to shower, check out and catch a flight home to Sacramento.

His cab was pulling away from the hotel when he heard two explosions about five seconds apart and felt the concussion. He saw waves of people running, including many who had the day off from work for Patriots' Day, a state holiday.

"People ran into the streets, then police ordered cabs out of the area," said MacLaughlin, a consultant for the state Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-term Care. "It was the beginning of a weeklong school holiday, so lots of kids (were) around."

Ray Rios also finished the race before the explosions. He said he was excited to find and meet up with his wife and relatives amid tens of thousands of people at the finish line. They were hugging and talking when they saw an explosion, followed by a second blast 100 yards away.

The Sacramento sheet-metal worker struggled to keep his wife, sister, brother-in-law and 6-year-old niece together in an unfamiliar city as people rushed from the scene. With no car, and trains shut down, they made their way to a restaurant to rest, eat and plan a way back to their hotel.

"We were walking around the city," Rios said. "It took us two hours to get a taxi."

The blasts that killed three people and wounded dozens in Boston raise new questions about security at major races. In Sacramento, many events draw participants from far beyond the capital, including the Komen Race for the Cure, the Run to Feed the Hungry and the California International Marathon.

John Mansoor, director of the CIM, said the explosions in Boston will mean challenges for all road races. "This will send a real shock wave through the running world," said Mansoor, who estimated that about 100 Sacramento-area marathoners ran in Boston on Monday. "How do you secure that much street?

"You can secure your finish," Mansoor said. "We can secure our start line. But what is nearly impossible to secure is the 26 miles in between."

Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila. Bee research librarian Pete Basofin contributed to this report.

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