CHARLES TOWN – Charles Wilson, who ran the Boston Marathon in 2011 and 2012, had hoped to be there again Monday.
Instead the Shepherdstown native was in New York City texting with a New York Times colleague shortly before 3 p.m. as two explosions occurred on packed Boylston Street near the finish line, an unexplained attack that killed three and left more than 170 others wounded.
“John Eligon ran a three-hour-flat marathon and I was texting him, congratulating him on an amazing race,” Wilson said Tuesday. “He texted me that he had to go back and report. He wrote the front-page story for the paper today.”
For Wilson, a New York Times Magazine writer and editor who failed to qualify for Monday’s race after struggling in last year’s high temperatures, it’s difficult to try and digest the horrific news from Boston.
“The best part of the race is making a sharp turn on to Boylston Street and seeing the finish line ahead of you,” said Wilson, who first ran the route in 2009, when he guided a blind runner thorugh the second half of the race. “Boston is a rare marathon where you can see the finish line with more than a half mile to go, and it’s a sight that pulls you along when you’re so tired.
“That stretch is the most joyful and celebratory part of the whole race, with fans lined up on both sides. The buildings on both sides contain the sound, so it’s like running through a tunnel of happy and celebratory noises. You see mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, all craning their heads and hoping to catch a glimpse of their loved ones finishing.”
One of the victims of Monday’s attack – which investigators said Tuesday may have come via metal placed into pressure cookers and hidden in backpacks, set to go off with timers – was 8-year-old Martin Richard of Dorchester, Mass., killed as he congratulated his father on finishing the marathon. Two members of his family also remained hospitalized with devastating injuries; his younger sister lost a leg and his mother suffered a brain injury.
As news of the explosions spread Monday afternoon, Wilson and other local runners – including Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a 46-year-old nationally ranked runner who owns Two River Treads in Shepherdstown, and Ranson resident ultra-marathoner Laura L. Bergmann – emailed and posted on Facebook to let friends know they’d finished the race unharmed.
Lois Turco, who works with Cucuzzella to stage the Freedom’s Run, the popular fall marathon that begins in Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, said Tuesday that runners are resilient. “Despite the tragic event, the Boston Marathon will continue to draw participants,” she said.
Turco said Monday’s attack will no doubt alter prep work for this year’s Freedom’s Run.
“We will make sure we look at whatever we need to do to ensure our runners’ security,” she said. “We will continue to work with our partners in the NPS to ensure a safe, and historic race.”
Wilson, who decided to run his first marathon after watching the New York City Marathon just two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks said the possibility of such an attack has crossed his mind.
“I have actually worried about marathons as a terrorist target in the past because of the masses of people,” he said. “I thought the (2001) marathon was a wonderful celebration of life.”
The aftermath of Monday’s attack demonstrated something similar, Wilson said.
“I couldn’t help but be moved by seeing all the people who rushed into the danger and helped others,” he said.
But as he headed to work on Tuesday, Wilson said he felt overwhelmed. “I really felt the sadness of it,” he said. “I imagine I feel like everybody else – I just can’t understand how someone could do that to other people.”