Boston Marathon runner gives first-person account

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 11:39 AM

Mike Canan

The euphoria of finishing the Boston Marathon hadn’t even worn off for me when I received a text from my panicked wife.

‘‘Explosion at Copley. Are you OK?”

I finished the nation’s most prestigious marathon shortly before 1 p.m. I made my way with my training partner, Jensen Beach, Fla., resident Steve Cortes, through the gauntlet of volunteers to get my bag and then we went to his nearby hotel to warm up and relax. At about 2 p.m., we went for lunch just five or six blocks from the finish. Shortly before 3 p.m., I received my wife Hillary’s text while I was on the phone with my parents, who were in town to watch me run.

Steve and I didn’t hear or see anything.

It took a few minutes to get a call to Hillary to go through and then we left the restaurant. While I was on the phone, I heard a siren for the first time.

Outside, it was eerily calm.

No one was panicked. No one was running. But everyone we passed was on the phone or checking the Internet.

It was a sort of befuddled chaos.

Meanwhile, my phone battery was virtually dead and service was spotty. Concerned texts were streaming into my phone’s inbox, but I wasn’t able to respond to most of them.

I was surprised to find the subway, “The T,” still running. But when I got on, the station I needed to stop at for a transfer to my hotel was closed.

I exited at the next stop, unsure what to do next.

I was standing at the map on the subway wall trying to figure out my next move and I began chatting with two women also trying to figure out what to do. It turned out we were all staying at the same hotel.

We decided to try and split a cab back to the hotel, but the cabs were refusing to pick anyone up.

So we began to walk.

As we did, they shared their story. They were from Raleigh, N.C., and were running their first Boston Marathon, just like I was. It turned out they had missed wave two because they were in line for the restroom. That put them in wave three. Their goal time was under 4 hours. They finished at 3:53.

Five minutes after they finished, they heard a massive explosion. The ground shook. Police started running toward the finish and told them to get out of the finish area as fast as possible. I don’t think they even had their bags. They had no phones or warm clothes.

And if they had finished closer to four hours, they could have been at the finish line when the explosions took place.

I shared my space blanket, and together the three of us walked six or seven blocks until we could catch a bus to our hotel.

Meanwhile, we tried to glean as much as we could from other runners and spectators. Runners are a tight-knit group and you could feel the concern for those who were hurt or unaccounted for.

Finally, about an hour after I heard the news, I made it to the hotel and received hugs from the friends of the women I walked back with and my family in our room.

Since then, we have had a steady stream of calls and texts to check on us. Everyone from friends and family to my son’s tee-ball coach and our boys’ day care.

It is scary what happened and what could have happened. My parents, Anne and Dave Canan from Circleville, Ohio, were right where the explosion occurred just hours earlier when I finished.

It seems trivial when others lost so much more, but so many runners are stuck in Boston. We are left trying to sort out what to do with our remaining Boston trip and whether we can or should get out of the city.

Is the city safe for me and my family? I don’t know.

Should I ever run the Boston Marathon again? I don’t know that either.

And again it sounds trivial, but will my memory and the memories of so many others of what should have been one of the proudest moments of our lives be marred by the thought of what happened after and of those who in their proudest moment had their lives forever changed?

(Mike Canan is managing editor of Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. Contact him at

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