Campbell River runner escapes Boston Marathon explosion

A Campbell River teacher was in Boston for the marathon when explosions went off

Campbell River runner Sandra Milligan had just finished the Boston Marathons when bombs went off in the U.S. city Monday. She's unharmed and okay

A Campbell River teacher running in the Boston Marathon is safe after explosions rocked the historic race Monday.

Sandra Milligan, a biology instructor at North Island College and director of the Aquatic SeaLife Society working to bring a public aquarium to Campbell River, said she and her family are all okay after missing the explosion by minutes.

“The bombs went off about 30 minutes after I crossed the finish line so none of us saw the actual event but heard the bombs and all the subsequent chaos,” Milligan, 46, said. “My parents and daughter were about one kilometre before the finish line with many other spectators (before the explosions).”

Milligan was gingerly walking back from the finish line towards an apartment where she was staying with her family, about one kilometre from the finish line, when she started to hear sirens.

“At one intersection, a couple walked past and the woman was quite hysterical,” Milligan said. “As I continued along I saw people just standing around in small groups, looking bewildered.

“I stopped at one group and asked if something had happened and they said that two bombs went off at the finish line and spectators were badly hurt.

“Of course I was very concerned for my family and tried to speed up the remaining two blocks. I was very happy to see my daughter in the window, and she seemed equally happy to see me, as they heard the bombs, had the news on the television, and were very concerned.”

Milligan’s 14-year-old daughter Maeve was with her grandparents who came from Ontario to watch their daughter race when pandemonium set in.

“We returned from the race leisurely, having no information concerning the bombs,” Maeve said. “A man came sprinting past, practically dragging his young daughter behind him. She was crying and asking where her mommy was while he screamed into the phone.”

Maeve heard the man yelling that he had heard bombs at the finish line, which prompted Maeve and her parents to quickly get to their apartment.

“My mother didn’t return for another dozen minutes, during which time the television kept blaring the news,” Maeve said. “At that point they were advertising the blood that covered the scene.”

And the news reports were grisly: three dead, 170 injured, some with appendages blown off, from twin blasts.

The blast happened more than five hours after the start of the race and about one and a half hours after the first runners crossed the finish line, when most of the top runners were finished but slower and amateur runners were still on the course.

Maeve described the scene after the explosions as eerily quiet.

“The roads that were bustling became those of a ghost town,” she recounted. “Few cars or people walk by and those who do are in a hurried rush. The subways have shut down and buses, as well as airport flights have been delayed. Having dinner out isn’t a very pleasant idea, as a terror has carpeted the streets of Boston.”

Milligan, who is a member of the River Runners club, said the tragic event has dampened her spirits and left a black mark on her accomplishment.

“Personally, after completing a sporting event like this I usually had a ‘perm-grin’ – happy, satisfied and emotional about accomplishing a goal for which I have worked for month,” Milligan said. “Today I am very conflicted, as a smile will appear and immediately I feel awful.

“I am very saddened by this terrible event, particularly after enjoying the amazing hospitality of the people of Boston over the last few days,” Milligan added. “The spectators embrace and encourage the runners along the entire race course. I feel so sad that this enjoyment may be forever tainted.

“This event, and large marathons and sporting events in general, will never be the same.”

The Boston Marathon has been held on the U.S. national holiday, Patriots Day, since 1897. The race begins in Hopkinton, Massachusetts and wraps up at Boston’s Copley Square.

Around 20,000 people participate in the 42.19 kilometre marathon each year. The day before the race, in a Facebook post, Milligan expressed her excitement for the marathon.

“In Boston, with 26,999 other runners ready to run 42.2 km tomorrow,” Milligan said. “Feeling like the wave of human emotion in that crowd will just carry me along. Maybe the first time the new River Runners shirts will be in Boston.”

At press time, it was not known who planned and carried out the explosions at the Boston Marathon and police had not determined a motive for the attack.