Tri-City runners back in Boston for marathon

Geoff Folsom, Herald staff writerApril 20, 2014 

Boston Runners

Tri Cities veterans of the Boston Marathon gather in Richland's Leslie Groves Park to recount their experiences. Back row, from left: Anita Case, Lisa Brouwer-Thompson, Judy Bell, Maron Wang, Shir Regev, Ellie Hedel, Ron Melton, Dan Hansen, Reagan Grabner, Stephen Mazurkiewicz, Brien Waldron; front row, from left: Susan Brain, Penny Colton, Darris Griffith, Amy Holt.

SCOTT BUTNER — Scott Butner

Three Tri-City women were running the last mile of the 2013 Boston Marathon when everything stopped.

“I was fortunate that I was in a tiny little bubble,” said Darris Griffith, 41, of Kennewick, who was listening to loud music through her ear buds. “I saw nothing. I heard nothing. Nobody was acting any different.”

That was until a police officer stepped in front of her and said nobody was to go any farther.

Griffith was within a half-mile of the finish line when two bombs exploded there, killing three people and injuring more than 260.

John Bell, 67, of Richland, was in between the two bombs, waiting for his wife, Judy, 67, to finish. They went off 12 seconds and 210 yards apart.

“It was all very surreal,” he said.

The Bells, Griffith and Susan Brain, 70, of Finley, are all running in today’s Boston Marathon to finish that last mile.

“How grateful I am to live in the United States,” Brain said. “I don’t have to be fearful when I see policemen. I trust they will do everything they can and the town will do everything they can.”

Others from the Tri-Cities will compete in the race for the first time, or to try to complete the 26.2-mile course again.

The tragedy brought the Tri-City running community closer, Judy Bell said. They train on Sundays and run in marathons together wearing matching fluorescent yellow shirts reading “Tri-Cities, WA Boston Strong.”

Near the finish line

Ellie Hedel, 61, of Richland, finished her first Boston Marathon in 4:06:52, just before the first explosion at 4:09:43.

She was thankful to hear that her family wasn’t waiting at the finish for her. They had gone to see her earlier in the course and couldn’t get back in time. She later learned that, earlier in the event, they had been standing just where one of the bombs exploded.

“Everything up until then was great,” Hedel said. “They did a great job organizing it, the course was great, there was beautiful weather.”

She also wants to return to show her support for Boston.

“My first thought was that I’m never doing another marathon, but, after about an hour, I said, ‘I’m coming back,’ ” she said.

Maron Wang, 67, of Richland, was also near the finish line, talking with Doug Brown, 62, of Kennewick.

They were preparing to pick up their bags when the bombs exploded.

“We didn’t know what was going on,” Wang said. “I asked him what he thought it was, he said, ‘Whatever it is, it’s nothing good.’ ”

Wang recalls seeing more people in wheelchairs than she has ever seen. She later learned that the victims in the chairs had their legs hit by nails blown out of pressure cookers.

Wang isn’t running the race this year, though she continues to train with the 3 Rivers Road Runners.

Brown is not only running in Boston again, he ran the April 6 Paris Marathon and the April 13 London Marathon.

“In Paris and London this month, I met many runners who expressed support for the Boston Marathon in light of last year’s bombing,” he told the Herald in an email. “It made me proud to be a runner.”

Running three marathons in three countries in just more than two weeks is a tribute to the people killed or injured, Brown said.

“In 2012, I learned the organization of their marathon is brilliant and the crowd support along the course is stunning,” he said. “In 2013, I learned that when somebody tries to destroy their marathon, they will fail.”

‘It’s going to be big’

Amy Holt, 36, of Kennewick, will run in the Boston Marathon today for the first time. It will be her 18th marathon in just her third year of competing.

When she heard about the bombings last year, she thought about all her running buddies competing there, she said.

“It’s one of those moments where, 10 years from now, people will ask you where you were,” she said. “I’ll never forget.”

She knows this race is special.

“The last couple of runs, I’ve been so emotional,” Holt said. “To me, it represents all the training, all the early morning and late-night runs that we had to put in. It will be such an honor to be there.”

Ron Melton, 58, teared up when talking about why he’s running the race for the first time today.

“We’re running for the community, we’re running for Boston,” he said. “It’s bigger than ourselves.”

Melton is staying with a friend in Boston who had never been interested in the event before, but will be there to offer support to runners this year, he said.

That’s why he’s not surprised to hear that registration for the race has increased to 36,000 from 27,000, and up to 1 million people are expected to cheer them on.

“He said, ‘It’s going to be big, and I really want to be a part of it,’ ” Melton said of his friend. “He thinks the local Boston community is really going to be out in huge numbers.”

Ready to go back

Some 3 Rivers Road Runners members have trained through the winter to go back to Boston. They can offer unique support for each other, Hedel said.

“It’s been good to train with other people,” Hedel said. “We think, ‘Did that really happen to us?’ It was a marathon. It wasn’t anything political. It was a race.”

They hope they can send a positive message by going back.

“I think it will be really awesome just with the support of everybody who will be there,” Hedel said. “It will send a message to everybody who wants to hurt runners.”

Hedel isn’t sure what to expect.

“I think it will be kind of emotional turning onto Boylston (Street), but I really don’t know,” she said.

Griffith has a license plate reading “THANKFUL,” referring to all the things that kept her from being at the finish line when the bombs went off. They include walking at times because of a stress fracture she was recovering from, taking a restroom break and taking some pictures with college students along the course. “Everything happened for a reason,” she said. “Going back for me is about healing and celebrating.”

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