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Runner vows to return to the Boston Marathon

by Tom Chillemi

The tragedy at Monday’s Boston Marathon reverberated to Middlesex County.

“If the bombs had gone off an hour earlier, it would have been a whole different ball game. I think a lot of people experienced that feeling.”
—Steve Dunkel, Deltaville

Jamie Somerville of Deltaville ran in Monday’s 26.2-mile race. Although he couldn’t shake a cold virus, he still competed. By mile 8, he knew he was not going to run a sub 3-hour time. It was a struggle just to finish with a time of 3 hours, 38 minutes.

Steve Dunkel of Deltaville had accompanied Somerville to the Boston Marathon as a spectator.

Somerville was so disappointed after the race that he picked up his warm-up clothes and he and Dunkel immediately headed for their hotel about four blocks away.

After Somerville got cleaned up, they returned to the lobby, where people were glued to TVs watching news coverage of the explosions that killed 3 and injured more than 100 people.

“I couldn’t wrap my mind around it,” said Somerville.

Text messages started coming in from Middlesex friends and family members but neither Somerville or Dunkel could reply. Cell phone service had grinded to a halt.

Runners unable to finish the race were crying and freezing because they couldn’t get their warm-up clothes from the finish line area. They were frustrated trying to contact loved ones. “It was surreal,” said Somerville. “I could see the fear in their eyes.”

Finally, 45 minutes later Somerville got on Facebook, and sent an across-the-board message that he was “OK.”

What if?
Dunkel had been standing 100 yards from the finish line for several hours, waiting for Somerville, who finished about 30 minutes before the bombs went off.

Because Somerville was so disappointed, they left for the hotel immediately. If he had been feeling better, they probably would have gone to the race tent to celebrate, Dunkel said. The tent was across the street from where the bomb went off. “It would have been a different afternoon for us,” he added.

Confused people in the streets, frustrated by the lack of cell phone usage, searched for each other.

Somerville and Dunkel caught a shuttle and went to the airport. While they waited, the TV reported that Logan Airport was shut down, which was false, said Somerville.

Both men were able to call family and friends while at the airport.

On Tuesday, Jamie’s wife Annie said she had talked to her husband about 3 p.m., before the explosions. About 30 minutes later she got a text message about the explosions. “I figured he was okay, but there is that element of not knowing for sure,” she said.

Co-workers consoled Annie, a teacher at St. Clare Walker Middle School.

Jamie said that more than a million people attended the event, and even though most were not near the explosions, “your mind goes to the worst place.”

Dunkel said his initial reaction was “we’re okay, let’s get out of here.”

The gravity of the day came to light when Dunkel was lying in bed late that night. “I was so close to everything. If the bombs had gone off an hour earlier, it would have been a whole different ball game. I think a lot of people experienced that feeling.”

Jamie, a teacher at Middlesex High School, has resolved to return to the Boston Marathon. “This will not be my last memory of that course,” he said on Tuesday. “I will go back and set the record straight.”

Annie, who competed in the 2012 Boston Marathon, added, “People work their entire lives to run in the Boston Marathon. Now it will be forever tainted. I hope it will not change people’s minds about running and fitness.”

posted 04.17.2013

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