Alaska racers describe scene at Boston Marathon

The chaos in Boston after explosions at the finish line. Photo by Aaron Tang/Flickr Creative Commons.

Several Alaskans were near the finish line of the Boston marathon when two bombs exploded in the crowded finish area.  No Alaskans are known to be among the three people killed and the more than 100 others who were injured.

Forty-one Alaskans were registered to run Monday’s race and many had family members there to cheer them on.

Anchorage resident Heather Aften finished the race about 15 minutes before the bombs exploded. She was just a few blocks away when she heard the explosions.

“And right away I knew something was wrong. It was the kind of sound where you knew it was big and I instantly knew something was wrong. I thought of 9-11,” Aften said.

It was Aften’s dream  to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which only allows runners with fast marathon times to enter. She said she felt elation for 15 minutes after she finished, but everything changed the instant she heard the first explosion.

“My trip down those 26 miles was just one long party and so many people put everything they had into it.  And it’s just so heartbreaking and I guess because of that, I’m just feeling anger and rage at the whole thing,” she said.

Sixty-four year old Kodiak resident Howard Valley finished his race roughly 40 minutes before the blasts and said he was walking away from the area when he heard the explosions.

“It wasn’t like a propane tank or anything that goes off  in Kodiak sometimes, or anything else; it was quite obviously a large explosion of some type. But I didn’t know what it was until about maybe a half an hour later when I got inside a hotel and was watching the TV,” Valley said.

He said it took him about four hours to get out of the city to the Newton, Mass. bed and breakfast where he was staying.  He had to use alternate train  and bus routes because transportation was shut down near the race course.

Juneau physician John Bursell finished the marathon just 39 seconds under three hours.

He and his wife Jamie had returned to their hotel room about five blocks away, when she heard the explosions and arriving emergency responders.

Bursell said they were asked to stay put in their hotel Monday night.

The forty-nine year old specializes in rehabilitation medicine and has participated in Iron Man events, but this was his first Boston Marathon.

Forty-six year-old Brent Cunningham of Sitka crossed the finish line about a half-hour before the explosions.

He said he and his wife and daughter were just a few blocks away.

Cunningham said all of a sudden it was madness.  He said thousand of runners were unable to finish the race.  Everyone who finishes the Boston Marathon gets a medal.  He gave his medal to a woman who never got to the finish line.


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