Their stories are nowhere near as harrowing.
They finished the race when survival still meant having the endurance to complete the 26.2 miles.
They were able to return to their hotel and watch the unreal images instead of being in the midst of it.
Several Ahwatukee Foothills residents were involved in the Boston Marathon on Monday that was marred by two bombs going off near the finish line, killing three and injuring more than 140, but managed to escape the senseless act of violence.
That doesn’t mean it didn’t leave an indelible impression.
“I was getting myself together and heading back to my friends who were standing across from the second bomb,” said Nicole Armbrust, a Tempe resident who is a physical therapist at Spooner Physical Therapy in Ahwatukee. “It was noise you will never forget. I just remember looking at the man next to me and trying to figure out what happened.
“You could feel (the blast) in your feet and chest. People started screaming and running in the streets. You didn’t know if it was like 9/11 where there was going to be a building falling so everyone was doing what they could to get away.”
Brett Schumacher works for Global Athletics, and his company was having an end of race party in a nearby hotel. He was a runner in the event previous years, but was a spectator this time around.
They were in the middle of getting the celebration started when the first bomb changed one of the nation’s most iconic events forever.
“It was a feeling of bewilderment, and not one you could truly comprehend right away,” said Schumacher, who lives on the east side of the Chandler-Ahwatukee border. “We were walking around the streets of Boston like zombies. Everything near our hotel was closed off because of a police perimeter. We didn’t know where to go.
“Everyone was dealing with the wide range of emotions. Finishing a marathon is an emotionally draining event anyway, and this just made it very raw.”
Ahwatukee residents Kaylee Burton and Jeff Turner competed in the event and escaped unscathed physically, but not mentally.
Burton, 43, competed in her first Boston Marathon and finished in 3 hours and 34 minutes. It was her best time by about six minutes. In this event it meant a heck of a lot more than just attaining her personal best.
“If I had stopped because of a cramp or just didn’t have a good time I could have been right in the thick of it,” she said. “It’s terrifying to think about it in those terms. I was lucky to be almost all the way back to my hotel with my husband (Brian) when we heard it.
“It didn’t seem like a big blast from our vantage point. Something like a dumpster being dropped by a garbage truck. We went back to the hotel and started watching the coverage right away.”
That’s when reality set in.
“You just start feeling for the families of the runners who were closer to it,” said Burton, who was running for Ahwatukee-based charity LoveIAM.org. “There was a lot of confusion and people didn’t know where their family members were. It was an overwhelming feeling of sadness that we couldn’t shake.”
Local running coach Susan Loken did her best to contact all of the runners who she knew were in Boston, and once she did Loken knew it was a moment when good would win out over evil.
“When horrible things happen, I find comfort in realizing that the good, caring, loving, supportive people in this world far out-number the mean and hurtful people,” she said. “Our running community is experiencing a tragedy, but we will find strength in each other and we will continue to shine, support, celebrate and overcome.”
Turner, 40, finished in 2:37.56 to help his team win its division. They were off the course and celebrating with the anticipation of returning to the finish line in order to receive their trophy from the Boston Athletic Association.
“It was a big high to the lowest of the lows,” he said. “It was shocking and you don’t want to think something like that could happen. It made us angry, like a September 11th-type feeling. Who could do such a thing? Will they find him? So many innocent people hurt. It just didn’t make sense.”
The medal runners receive for crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon are always cherished, but the ones emblazoned with the 117th edition will also carry the weight of a heavy heart.
“I’m still processing through it,” Armbrust said. “Everyone is going to have their own story and mine is about luck. There was nothing tragic personally for me. I will absolutely go back for my 10th Boston Marathon. It will be my best and most important.
“The thing we can do is do what we do best, and that’s running. We are going to run over whoever did this and keep on running.”
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