Local running enthusiast Paul Harris ran in the Boston Marathon this year, and was nearby when the bombs went off. Thankfully, Harris was uninjured and quickly communicated that to several people in the Pratt community who would have known of his presence in Boston and been worried for his safety.
Harris, 22, a senior at Kansas State University studying biology/pre-dentistry, was a cross-country standout and state champion half-miler for Pratt High School, graduating in 2009. Harris has continued his involvement in distance running in college, joining the Kansas State Marathon Club.
This was Harris' first Boston Marathon, but third marathon overall.
"You have to qualify for the Boston Marathon, they don't let just anyone in," Harris explained. "I qualified last fall at the Olathe marathon."
Harris has been trying to average two marathons a year, one in the spring and one in the fall, so he has been pretty much continually training while keeping up his studies at K-State.
Harris foresees his running schedule will have to be curtailed next year once he enters dentistry school.
Harris completed the race in Boston at about 1:15 EDT, and the bombs exploded at about 2:50 EDT. At the time the bombs went off, Harris was about two blocks away, having recovered in the "cool-down tents" and then proceeded to the "reunion area" where runners greet supporters and fellow competitors following the race.
The final member of the K-State Marathon Club to finish, Lyndi Stucky, crossed the line at 2:05 EDT, and had also proceeded through the recovery areas and was with her parents in the reunion area when the blasts occurred.
According to Harris, the bombs went off almost exactly where Stucky's parents had been standing watching for their daughter. Watching television coverage later, the Stuckys thought they recognized people they had been standing next to as being among the injured getting tended to in the hectic aftermath.
Harris said that when the bombs first went off, an eerie silence fell over the crowd.
"Everyone was wondering, 'what was that'?" Harris recalled. "Is a building falling down?"
"A few minutes later, everyone realized something was up and the scene became very chaotic," Harris continued, "but we didn't realize the full extent of what had happened until we got home."
Harris and his companions were staying in Boston with family friends of one of the club members, and he credited them with being able to navigate and get them through the city even though the city's subways and other transportation systems were shut down.
"After the bombs, we walked to a nearby restaurant and kind of waited for things to get sorted out," Harris said. "Then we went back to their house and watched the coverage on TV. The next day they drove us to the airport. Security at the airport was extra tight, but our plane left right on time."
Harris was delayed in Dallas on the trip home, but not due to anything related to the bombings. Harris and his mates had to sit on the tarmac at D/FW for a couple hours because American Airlines national computer system had crashed.
Harris summarized his feelings by saying, "It was certainly sobering to realize you had just run past places where there were armed bombs ready to go off." Luckily, Harris and his friends escaped unscathed, but the experience is certainly one they will never forget.
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