Blackstone Valley Sports Editor Eric Benevides knew he would not run one of his best marathons when he set out on Monday’s 26.2-mile Boston Marathon course, and that may well have spared him the horrific scene marking the race memories of many others.
Two bombs detonated near the course’s finish line killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy, by last night’s tally and wounded scores of others as Benevides and his wife, Bozena Chmielewski, were still running the 26.2-mile course. Benevides would be stopped from finishing the race and only learned of the tragedy as news filtered to runners from spectators in the area.
“I’m sickened by everything that happened. I’m shocked and I just can’t believe it,” Benevides said after he was finally able to return home Monday night.
Benevides is a competitive racer when he typically sets out on a race course but knew before arriving at the Hopkinton start with Bozena on Monday that a nagging foot injury would keep him from posting one of his best long distance race times.
As a day to experience the premiere marathon in running, however, Monday could not have been more memorable with temperatures in the 50s and the sun just starting to come out on the big crowd lining both sides of the course as the race got under way.
“It was a beautiful marathon and everyone was saying ‘this is better than last year,’” Benevides said.
He began to have trouble with his foot as he hit the part of the course known as Heartbreak Hill but was still ahead of Bozena as he came into the 25-mile mark. Word started to come up through the crowd of a problem at the finish line and then someone heard that there had been some sort of an electrical explosion at the finish and that the racers would be rerouted to a new finish area.
Benevides made it to about 25.8 miles into the course before his section of runners encountered members of the Boston Police shutting the race down as it entered a small road tunnel. The police continued on up the course, stopping runners as they went, he said.
The shutdown and news that something terrible happened at the marathon’s finish line created confusion and chaos among the now-walking racers and people filing away from the downtown, according to Benevides.
He was able to stop at a monument in a square off the course and watch the other runners walking past while he was looking for Bozena.
“I was pretty stressed out,” he said while recalling the sudden end to the race and the stress of trying to pick his wife from the many people filing past. Luckily, Bozena was able to spot him at his waiting spot. The couple had nothing with them and were assisted by some college students with the use of a cell phone to contact the driver of the Narragansett Running Association club bus on which they were to ride back home.
Once on the bus, Benevides was able to check on all of the friends he knew to be in the race and learned everyone was safe and also heading home.
He also called his mom, Mary, and other family members to let them know they were safe.
“We had a little trouble getting out of Boston, but we were fine,” Benevides said later of his trip home.
What started out as a day with such promise of great memories for Benevides and his wife at a famous race, ended up as a sad, empty feeling about something that should never have taken place.
“I can’t even look at what they are showing on television,” Benevides said.