Photo By: Courtesy of Bob Anderson’s ujena fit club
Bob Anderson of Los Altos competes in his first Boston Marathon, which was marred by bombings.
Longtime Los Altos resident Bob Anderson isn’t likely to forget his first chance to compete in the Boston Marathon – certainly not when that first time was April 15.
Anderson, a 43-year Los Altos resident, was a block past the finish line, picking up his competitor’s medal, when the first of two homemade pressure-cooker bombs exploded.
The explosions injured more than 180 people and killed three – 8-year-old Martin Richard, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell and Boston University graduate student Lingzu Lu. Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was captured Friday evening, ending a tense 24-hour period that effectively shut down the Boston metropolitan area as authorities searched for him and his brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The elder sibling died early Friday morning during a shootout with federal and local law enforcement personnel.
“The sound, the smoke – people just didn’t know what was going on,” said Anderson, founder of Runner’s World magazine (launched in the late 1960s), describing the scene. “It was just unbelievable. … Nobody had any answers. It was a situation where it wasn’t clear what was going on. Nobody could’ve ever imagined something like this could happen at the Boston Marathon.”
Anderson, 65, said his thoughts immediately shifted to finding his son Michael, who competed in the marathon for the first time as well. Seeking some confirmation that his son was safe, Anderson made his way to a bag drop-off area for competitors and asked a local marathon official if his son had retrieved his belongings.
“It appeared that he did,” said Anderson, one of nine Los Altos residents registered to compete in the 2013 marathon. “Literally, I was almost shaking asking the question.”
Anderson returned to his hotel and reunited with his wife, who had been taking photos at the finish line but left the area before the blasts. She had been in contact with Michael and knew that he was unharmed.
They also learned that their son finished only 3 minutes before the first bomb detonated, leading to an emotional reunion at their hotel later that day.
“It was just the unknown – not knowing what was going on,” Anderson said in describing the tension as he searched for his son. “(The reunion) was quite emotional.”
Anderson noted that the weekend leading up to the marathon was a celebratory time, with “total strangers telling me, ‘Good luck tomorrow.’ Everyone was just so excited.”
Those positive feelings continued during the early stages of the race, he added, as Bostonians and other spectators lined the course, offering support to the competitors.
“It was such a great weekend, with so much joy in the air,” Anderson said. “There were kids giving you high-fives and handing out water to runners. … In my mind, it’s the same as someone putting a bomb in a church. For this to happen at that moment and to put (bombs) in the crowd, it’s just terrible.”
Tragedy on multiple fronts
Anderson, who returned home with family the day after the marathon, said his thoughts have since turned to those affected by the tragedy.
“The fact of the matter is, we should be totally happy and focused on what we did,” said Anderson, who is shooting a full-length documentary on his 50 years as a marathon runner.
The conclusion of the documentary, he added, was slated to include footage of his experience at the Boston Marathon.
“Obviously, our hearts go out to the victims,” he said. “It’s just so tragic.”
He noted that the April 15 event in Boston this year is a tragedy in more than one way. While expressing sorrow for those killed and injured, Anderson said the bombing was unfortunate from an athletic perspective as well. Many marathon runners spend years training for the opportunity to compete in the event – and may never get a second chance.
“This is one of the most prestigious (athletic) events in the world,” he said. “Obviously the real victims are the ones killed and injured. … At the same time, there were people there from all over the world and this may have been their only chance to compete in the Boston Marathon.”
Anderson wasn’t the only runner in Los Altos with his thoughts trained on the bombing victims.
Like others on April 15, Adam Kemist – owner of On Your Mark at 378 Main St. – said his gaze was trained on his TV set watching national news coverage of the event. Seeing the tragedy unfold from the other side of the country, he added, initially left him with a helpless feeling.
“It brought back the same feelings I had with 9/11 – the Twin Towers,” said Kemist, who attended the Boston Marathon as a spectator in 2002. “I’m sitting here asking, ‘What do we do?’ You sit here on the other coast and all you really do is sit and watch.”
Sitting and watching quickly turned into a call for action. Kemist and his wife, Micheline, contacted friends and regular customers to organize a 3-mile tribute run last Thursday in honor of the victims.
Close to 20 runners – some donning Boston Red Sox hats, others wearing New England Patriots jerseys – participated in the run, a loop that started at Kemist’s storefront and wound down First Street and Los Altos Avenue. Participants included members of the Homestead High Track & Field team.
The Kemists took part in a nationwide 4.09-mile run Monday – the time on the marathon clock when the first of two bombs exploded – along with members of the Los Altos High Track & Field team.
Participants collected donations at the events, which Kemist said he would direct to funds established for victims and their families, including 11-year-old Aaron Hern of Martinez. The total amount was not available by the Town Crier’s deadline.
As for Anderson, who along with his family participated in Kemist’s 3-mile tribute run Thursday, the bombing has only strengthened his resolve to show his support for the marathon in the future.
“It just gives me more reasons to support a race like the Boston Marathon,” he said. “In my mind, I’m not going to give those who did this any more power than they’ve already gotten. They’re not going to rob that from me.”