By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — Running in the Boston Marathon had been a life-long dream for Goshen resident Keith Gladfelter.
On Monday, it nearly became a life-threatening experience.
Approximately 19 minutes after he crossed the finish line Monday afternoon in a time of 3:43.18, two bombs went off that killed three people and injured more than 100.
“I was about two-and-a-half blocks away trying to pick up my stuff,” Gladfelter said. “I was on a side street and it was still the loudest blast I’ve ever heard. It sounded like a building collapsed. The second one to me didn’t sound as loud, but from what is being reported it was louder than the first.
“It was a good half hour before I knew what had transpired.”
Boston is the oldest marathon in the country and one of the most popular.
“The worst feeling for me was hearing about the 8-year-old boy who died,” he said. “All along the course there are children handing you a drink, an orange or just wanting to high-five you.”
It also made the father of two think about his own daughters — Laura and Heather. Laura is a graduate of Manchester College and Heather is a freshman at Drury University in Springfield, Mo.
“I’m fortunate that Heather had a golf tournament or my wife (Beth) would have been with me,” Gladfelter said. “I’m really glad I came alone.”
Gladfelter feels someone was watching out for him on Monday.
“I have been nursing an injury so my training miles have not been as high as they were,” he said. “My goals were to finish the marathon and finish in less than four hours. At the 23-mile mark I hit the wall and was on the verge of walking the rest of the way. Someone kept pushing me. Had I slowed down and come in at the time I was expecting it would have been much closer to the blast. Someone was looking out for me.”
Gladfelter explained how the situation could have been worse.
“Had the bombs been placed on the other side of the street it would have been much worse,” he said. “Across the street there were bleachers, probably 20 rows high that were just packed with people.”
Gladfelter is a Division Manager for Diversified Imports/Plasson LTD. He was in North Carolina on Tuesday when reached by phone.
“I was on one of the first flights out of Boston,” he said. “I still can’t believe I got out of town. It probably took me two hours to get to the airport. The most trouble I had was finding a subway line that was running. Every one I went to was shutdown. Finally at the fourth stop the manager told me the only line that was running was the Blue Line. Fortunately that is the one that goes to the airport.
“I had to run about two miles to get to the station, but I was never so happy to get to the airport. The power went out twice while I was waiting for my flight. I don’t know what that was all about.”
Gladfelter talked about the range of emotions he went through.
“When you are running a marathon you are so glad to cross the finish line. So glad to be finished,” he said. “To go from that high to seeing the reports of all the injuries was something I hope to never experience again.”
Friends Merlin Miller, Lyle Bontrager and Atlee Lambright — all avid long-distance runners — journeyed to Boston this past weekend to run in the Boston Marathon.
Little did the trio know they were about to be part of history.
Miller, 33, from White Pigeon, Mich., is a 2003 Goshen College graduate. He finished 1,632nd (2:57.38) Monday.
For all three runners, the excitement of running excellent times was tempered by the multiple bomb blasts near the finish line.
The trio had moved out of the area about 15 minutes before the explosions and were in the subway for a short period afterward. When they got off the subway, they had numerous messages from family and friends asking if they were all right, Miller explained.
Confusion soon gave way to the knowledge that something terrible had happened at the race.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Miller said. “We were all so happy about the race. ... This just brought some perspective back into it.”
Bontrager, 21, from Shipshewana, said the race experience as a whole was amazing.
“There are crowds lining pretty much the entire route,” Bontrager said. “The crowds are very supportive.”
Bontrager said he would have no qualms about returning to Boston to run the race again.
Lambright, 31, from Topeka, said it will take awhile for the sting of the apparent terror attack to give way to good thoughts about the personal record time (2:48.40, 702nd place) he ran in Boston.
“For awhile,” Lambright said, “my first thoughts are going to be about what happened there.”
Sports Editor David Vantress contributed to this report.