Boston Marathon stories eerie, nearly tragic for first-time Marquette runners

MARQUETTE – The stories of two Marquette-area runners participating in the Boston Marathon for the first time had turns that were nearly tragic and most definitely eerie.

The near-tragedy came for Barb Trudeau and three family members. Trudeau estimated she was five minutes from the finishing the 26.2-mile race at the 25.5-mile mark when two bombs exploded near the finish line. That put her about three-quarters of a mile from the race’s end, and about a half-mile if a straight line is drawn from her position to the blasts.

Even worse, her husband Randy Trudeau, daughter Gabrielle Trudeau and Gabrielle’s boyfriend, Travis Hansen, had stationed themselves near the finish line waiting for Barb. While Randy and Barb live in Beaver Grove, her daughter and boyfriend are residents of Minneapolis.

With the explosions about 200 feet apart and separated by just seconds, the three family members were actually located about halfway between them and on the other side of the street from both blasts.

“We were probably 200 or 300 feet from both explosions,” Randy Trudeau said. “The first one was like a loud cannon. You could feel the ground shake, then feel the reverberation through your body and see the smoke.”

He reported that he and Hansen felt their ears pop from the blasts, rather like what happens on an airplane gaining or losing altitude, but had no lasting physical injuries.

“Then people were rushing, starting about 30 seconds after the second one went off,” Randy Trudeau said. “It was scary wondering if there was going to be a third bomb go off.

“We were like sardines on our side of the street, we were being pushed into a store. I didn’t want to be there, because I knew the two bombs went off in buildings. So I worked my way into the street.”

He said he saw a woman lying in the street obviously injured and also a policeman running while carrying a small young boy.

“That’s probably the most chaotic thing I’ve ever been in,” Randy Trudeau said.

But the chaos was only beginning. Barb Trudeau, 54, was enjoying the race and trying not to push herself too hard until she got to the 24-mile mark.

“I realized I was almost done, and I felt so good, I started picking up the pace,” she said.

Had she kept to her original goal of finishing in 4 hours, 10 minutes, she would have been right at the finish line at 2:50 p.m., the time of the explosions.

Instead, she was two turns away from the final straightaway and never heard the explosions. In fact, she and her fellow runners weren’t aware of anything unusual until a mass of people closed the path in front of her and forced them to come to a halt.

“The road was cut off right in front of us by the police,” Barb Trudeau said. “Then we saw a SWAT team in black going somewhere. I was thinking someone was hit (by a vehicle) or had a heart attack.”

She was left stuck in the street with fencing separating runners from spectators. While some competitors jumped the fence to leave the area, Trudeau and many other runners were left stranded in place for about 2 1/2 hours.

“We stood there and waited and waited,” she said, adding that runners got chilled due to stopping their physical activity, a cool ocean breeze and being out of the sun – Not to mention being dressed in shorts and tank tops for the heavy physical exertion rather than standing around in 50-degree temperatures.

“A man gave me his North Face jacket,” Barb Trudeau said, “and people came out of the stores with plastic bags for us to slip into. I got the name and address of the man who loaned me his jacket so I can send it back to him.”

After all that waiting, three students from nearby Berklee School of Music helped out Trudeau and other runners still left on the course.

“I didn’t have my cell phone with me, and they couldn’t get hold of anyone, so one student volunteered to escort me back to my hotel,” she said. “When I got back, I got my phone and called my husband.”

At the time of the call, her relatives were wandering around looking for her at Boston Common, where buses had brought many runners stranded along the course.

Despite their ordeal, the four visitors to Boston went out sightseeing on Tuesday and plan to again today before Barb and Randy Trudeau return to the Upper Peninsula on Thursday.

“Other than seeing a real heavy police presence at some popular spots, you hardly noticed what happened at the race,” Barb Trudeau said about the regular buzz of activity on the streets Tuesday.

She hopes to bring her family back to the site where she waited and would like to run or walk the remaining course if allowed to today.

“When us runners finish a marathon, we often say we survived,” Barb Trudeau said. “But that was really true this time.”

The other first-time runner, Richard Anderson, has a somewhat different but just as interesting of a story.

The 59-year-old Marquette resident was able to finish the race in 3:55:48 and at about 2:22 p.m., 28 minutes before the blasts. So he was clear of the race course and in the path leading from the finish line to buses that carry participants to the family reunion area to meet up with his wife, Sarah.

“Just as we were headed to a bus, we heard a big boom like a cannon going off,” Richard Anderson said. “Everyone in the area recognized that it was a massive boom.

“We discussed what it could be, but when I heard the second blast and saw the smoke rising, you knew something was wrong.

“Boston police started scrambling and sirens were going. My wife was already near the reunion area a block or two from where the first explosion occurred. We were able to arrange a rendezvous before cell service got shaky.”

The eerie part of his story deals with Sept. 11, 2001.

“I was in Manhattan during 9/11, and a lot of what was happening (Monday) was same,” Anderson said of a business trip to New York.

He said he was in a limousine crossing from Manhattan to Brooklyn that morning when he saw smoke coming out of a World Trade Center tower.

“I asked the driver to put on a news channel on the radio, but there was nothing about it, so I know that was just after the first plane struck.”

Monday in Boston was a day of huge swings for Anderson.

“This was my first Boston (Marathon) and my third marathon ever,” he said. “The contrast was so striking. For 26 miles, I saw small Massachusetts communities just pour out on the course. There were dance groups, bands and everyone cheering. The enthusiasm was so great, then everything changed in a moment.

“It was just a violation of the moment.”

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.