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The Daily Ardmoreite
  • Bombing at Boston Marathon: Smalley, Vandagriff finish race ahead of explosion

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  • The 2013 Boston Mara­thon was marred by trag­edy on Monday as two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three and injuring numerous spectators who still lined the streets hours after the first runners finished.
    Fortunate to have es­caped serious injury, or death, were two Ardmo­reites.
    Steve Smalley and Tim Vandag­riff, each 60, felt privi­leged to run in one of world's most pres­tigious marathons again, but the day ended in shock for the two Ardmore resi­dents and thousands of others.
    "It has been a crazy, crazy day," said Smalley, who ran his sixth Boston Marathon. "This is the Su­per Bowl of marathons, the one all runners aspire to go to.
    "It was just a tremen­dous day for it; ideal run­ning condi­tions. Things were going well up to that point."
    The initial blast went off at approximately 2:50 p.m. EST, with a third ex­plosion reported at the John F. Kennedy Library more than an hour after the first wave.
    According to Smalley, he finished the race about 20 minutes before the bombs went off, with Vandagriff coming in around 5 min­utes later. The Smalleys were evacuated from their hotel — about a block from the finish line — and had to temporarily take refuge in a train station Monday afternoon with a number of other race participants.
    "We had agreed to meet back at our hotel," said Alison Smalley, Steve's wife, via text message. "I had reached the hotel when I heard and felt the blasts.
    "I didn't know what it was and was going out to see about Steve when he walked up. I was so thankful. It was pretty chaotic."
    Steve Smalley didn't think much of the loud boom at the time. He said his legs were cramping and he was eager to get back to the hotel and rest.
    "I had exited that (runner's area) and I was several blocks away from the explosion," Smalley said. "There were so many different rumors going around. One person on the elevator said it was a transformer explosion. Then I went up to the room and they (his family) were very happy to see me.
    "As soon as I got to the room, it was texts coming in and people concerned."
    The apartment where Vandagriff and his family are staying is situated right outside the area sectioned off by police, four to five blocks from the finish line. He was still on the street when the bombs' force ripped through a group of supporters and crumbled runners to their knees.
    Page 2 of 3 - "We were probably about five minutes across the finish line when the explosion went off," Vandagriff said. "We were probably about a block, block and a half away. Once we heard it and looked at it, we did not walk back towards it at all. We just looked in disbelief at what was going on.
    "We were only a few minutes ahead. In a little bit slower race."
    The aftermath
    About two hours after the winners of the Boston Marathon crossed the line, there was a loud explosion on the north side of Boylston Street, just before the photo bridge that marks the finish line. Another explosion could be heard a few seconds later.
    "I think at that point, most people could tell something bad had happened," Vandagriff said.
    Everything was makeshift in the aftermath of the first terror attacks the Boston Marathon has seen in 117 editions of the race. Finish-line tents normally reserved for dehydrated runners and light medical attention were converted into triage units. Communication also was limited in the hours after the explosions. Cellphone service was at first reported shut down in the surrounding area to prevent possible remote detonations.
    More than two hours after the explosions, Alison Smalley could still only communicate via text message. Calls to Smalley and Vandagriff both went unanswered in that window of time, but Smalley confirmed their safety.
    After they were forced to evacuate, however, some runners and families were stuck in the cold of the train station for hours. Many were stranded in their race attire with no identification or phones, without any way to get in touch with their families.
    Around 6:14 p.m. CST, The Ardmoreite's call finally went through to Vandagriff, who said he was walking around Boston with his wife and daughter.
    Vandagriff said his family was supposed to meet him at the finish line, but got caught in a crowd and decided not to bother with the throng.
    "It was actually good that they decided not to do that," Vandagriff said. "They were quite pleased that all our timing worked out good."
    Not deterred
    Both the Smalleys and Vandagriff are heavily involved in the Ardmore running community. Alison Smalley is the race director for the Arbuckles to Ardmore Race for Mercy and her husband, a cancer survivor, has volunteered in the A2A each of its four years.
    Steve Smalley, who's run in 42 marathons, said Monday's horrors left him with questions about Boston, New York, Oklahoma City and other large scale marathons — the safety of the high-profile events runners train so hard to be a part of.
    "It's a sad deal because I don't know how you protect an event like that," Smalley said. "I'm wondering what effect it will have on the future of all major marathons."
    Page 3 of 3 - Vandagriff, an A2A advisory board member and an employee at at Michelin for more than 38 years, said the harrowing events of Monday won't keep him from returning to Boston in the future.
    "I'll keep on doing it," said Vandagriff, who's been running marathons for close to 16 years, and ran his sixth Boston Marathon Monday. "It's not gonna stop me from doing anything like that at all."
    Some 27,000 runners participated in the 26.2mile race Monday — 86 of those Oklahomans.
    Some weren't so lucky. The Ardmoreites were.
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