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Area runners OK in Boston

Boston tragedy
Apr. 15, 2013 @ 11:35 PM

HUNTINGTON -- At least eight people from the Tri-State area competed in Monday's Boston Marathon and reported to family and friends that they were OK following two explosions near the finish line about five hours after the race started at 10 a.m.

But that didn't mean Tri-Staters altogether avoided what one woman from Scott Depot described as a nightmare that interrupted what had started as an idyllic day.

Cheryl Thrift was in Boston with several family members to watch her sister, 65-year-old Teresa DeLong of New Cumberland, W.Va., run in her second marathon.

DeLong was passing the 40-kilometer mark when the explosions took place, and her family members were near the finish line waiting for her. Thrift said she was about 100 yards from the first explosion but only feet from the other. She said she was standing in front of a tall metal box on the sidewalk. The man on the other side of the box sustained serious injuries to his legs, she said.

"You kind of wonder, as close as we were, how we all escaped without injury," Thrift said.

For those attending the event as well as their friends and relatives in the Tri-State, word of the explosions meant some tense hours as they awaited word that their loves ones were all right.

Among those from Huntington who participated in the marathon were Emily Chaney, 31, Caroline Brady, 24, and Richard Campbell, 22. Milton resident Joshua Holley, 25, Hurricane resident Jeff Ranson, 60, and Ashland resident Amy Compston, 28, also competed.

Brady, a student at Marshall University's School of Medicine, was joined by fellow medical student Jill Goodwin, 25.

According to the marathon's runner tracking system, all finished except for Ranson.

Those who finished all did so before 2 p.m. According to the tracking system, Ranson had passed the 40-kilometer mark at 3:19 p.m., after the explosion. He and the other runners who had not finished the race were diverted down Commonwealth Avenue and into a family meeting area, according to an emergency plan that had been in place.

It's unknown how many other local residents attended as family and friends of the runners.

"Everybody I knew from Huntington and Charleston are OK," said Robert Smith, owner of Robert's Running and Walking Shop, with locations in both cities.

Smith said he heard from Chaney, who is one of his employees, who alerted him by text that she was not injured. Smith said Chaney told him in her message that she heard the bombs go off. She finished just before 1 p.m., nearly two hours before the explosion, which took place about 2:45 p.m.

Smith and Pat Riley, who runs www.tristateracer.com and teaches at Cabell Midland High School, both have run the Boston Marathon in recent years. They described the atmosphere there as a festival. They also remember how secure the environment was.

"It was a completely safe event," said Riley, who ran in 2011. "Police every 10 feet. Even locally, (Huntington Police) is probably going to look and think twice this week in local 5Ks."

Thrift, the Scott Depot resident, said that after the explosion she and her relatives met up inside a nearby restaurant, where police had herded the uninjured bystanders.

"Then they came in and got us out the back door and into the alley and told us to run," Thrift said. Another explosion followed, which she later learned was a controlled blast of a suspicious package.

As she spent time Monday night with her family, she said all the blood and screams and smoke was a nightmare compared to how the day started.

In the first few hours, Thrift described the atmosphere as friendly and courteous, elevating to inspirational as those in wheelchairs crossed the finish line, followed by some the most elite runners in the world.

"The most upbeat thing I've been to in years," she said.

That's how Huntington resident Katharine Lea remembers Boston, where she lived for 14 years after graduating from college.

"Marathon Monday is so much fun," said Lea, who moved to Huntington in 2011. "I wish I could describe how much fun the city is on that day."

Lea talked about how most people are off work, the Red Sox are playing an early baseball game and the symphony is performing. She recalls riding her bike with friends along the course after police shut down the road, 52 miles round trip, back to the starting line to watch the runners take off.

She said a few friends were running the marathon, while others were downtown taking part in festivities. After the explosions, Lea said she tried to get in touch with her friends to make sure they were all right.

"Panicked about a few people," Lea said. "Finally found out (before 8 p.m.) the last one is accounted for."

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