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Ashley Sprunger ran her first Boston Marathon last year and finished before the bombs, which killed three and injured 264, went off.

Recalling a day of horror

Area runners share stories from Boston Marathon

For most runners in last year’s Boston Marathon, it was business as usual. The buses brought everyone to the starting line, the elite runners were announced, and the race began in several waves, which are required for such a large event.

The Boston Marathon is described as one of the world’s most prestigious road races. It is the oldest annual marathon in the world, run every year since 1897, and is one of six major world marathons.

About four hours and 10 minutes into the April 15, 2013, race, two bombs detonated in the finishing area. Three spectators died and an estimated 264 more people were injured.

For many in the race, that day’s events would change their lives forever.

Arianne Lehn

Arianne, 29, is an associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Fort Wayne. Boston was her third marathon.

“The Boston Marathon is the race of a lifetime. There’s such a collective sense of community among everyone present, both spectators and runners,” Lehn said.

Arianne finished the race and was with her family in the family meeting area about two blocks away from the finish line when the explosions occurred.

Arianne and her husband tried desperately to reach friends and family through overloaded cell networks. All they could do was watch the panic unfold in front of them.

“The weeks and months following the marathon required a lot of healing. I was deeply blessed to be surrounded by such a supportive community,” she said.

Arianne wrote an article that was published in the April issue of the magazine Presbyterian Today, reflecting on what she witnessed that day.

In the article, which can be accessed at, she describes everyone helping everyone else, bringing those in need to healing. For Arianne, being a pastor allows her to bear other peoples’ burdens. She was not used to being the burden for others to bear.

When she returned to her congregation at First Presbyterian, she was greeted with open arms, and they became her healing community.

Arianne continues to run and dreams of running the Boston Marathon again someday.

Alissa McKaig

Alissa, 28, is a native of New Haven and alumna of Concordia Lutheran. She is a four-time NAIA national champion for Indiana Tech and has been a professional distance runner for five years.

The 2013 Boston Marathon was Alissa’s fourth marathon after New York, the world marathon championships, and the U.S. Olympic Trials. She raced in Boston as a member of the 40-person John Hancock Elite group.

“I got (to Boston), and it was a really amazing experience,” McKaig said. “It’s the oldest marathon in the States, and it is a holiday in Boston: Patriots Day.

“The course starts in the suburbs out of town and is run into town. It’s really cool. It was different, but I loved it.”

Alissa was already finished and was walking with her parents about a block from the finishing area when the explosions occurred.

“It was a pretty weird moment because it was so loud and you could kind of feel it, and it’s a noise you’re not supposed to hear at a road race or downtown so you know right away,” she said. “My dad was a little bit farther up the street from my mom and I, and he was behind a bus stop, but I had just seen him. It was probably one of the weirdest, scariest moments of my life. I knew my dad was right there, but in that one second, I couldn’t see him, and it was a super strange panic.

“I still get emotional thinking about it, and you saw people running up one street over and people were running away from that road. It was like a scene from a movie. They had their bags and purses and coats and were just running. It was so … surreal … bizarre.

“That was it for a while and there was nothing about it. You had this big explosion and for 45 minutes, you heard nothing about it. It was just really weird because we were wandering around Boston and not knowing what was going on.”

Alissa returned to where she was training in North Carolina after the race and felt the effects of Boston in her training.

“I went back to my teammates, and it was a really strange feeling because we talked about it and they didn’t understand,” she said. “I felt so weird and out of sorts for a while. I still get emotional talking about it. It was bad. I had a bad race myself.

“You put so much into a marathon and this one went poorly. Normally, I would have mourned that, but this time you have to mourn the loss of what went terribly.

“I couldn’t really do that. It would have been weird to be super upset about a race when so many people were harmed physically. They were harmed by it, and it felt like that special day and that special race was violated. People couldn’t experience the joy behind it.”

Alissa trains with Mizuno out of Washington, D.C. Because she is recovering from an injury, she will not running Boston this year but intends to do so in the future.

David Reichwage

David, 67, is a dentist in Fort Wayne, and this year will be the 27th time he has run Boston. He was one of the thousands of people who were unable to finish last year’s race because of the events.

“The weather was ideal, and the conditions were perfect, and there was a promise of fast and possible record-breaking times,” Reichwage said. “The excitement and enthusiasm before the start, during the event along the course, the support and enthusiasm of thousands of spectators is the most awesome that I have seen at any race.

“The course closed when disaster occurred and over 4,500 runners had to find their own way back downtown. I was about four miles from the finish. I will never forget the unifying spirit as I worked my way back to my hotel tired, lost and cold. All transportation systems were on shut down, and the city was on lockdown.

“So many people offered congratulations and aid to me: One woman offered me her coat, it was a nice one, too. Another woman insisted that I take her cash and that I buy something to eat at CVS. Another offered to carry me, piggyback, and would have if it wouldn’t have been for her backpack. Two college students came out of a restaurant and offered to buy me hot chocolate.

“Despite my hotel being on lockdown, the bell captain took it upon himself to let me back in and get me to my room. Ending the race with four miles to go was not only emotionally upsetting but confusing because no one knew exactly what had happened or the extent of the damage. It was only back in my hotel room and watching the news that the true horror of the moment started to settle in.”

The Boston Athletic Association allowed everyone who did not finish last year’s race to return in 2014. David was determined.

“I wanted to go back with a passion. Amy Hastings, an elite runner, said, and I think it captures why I want to return, ‘There is a unique energy surrounding the Boston Marathon that you can’t help but feel. It includes every runner and every person along the course. It brings every person together as one.’

“I have been fortunate enough to experience that energy firsthand both in running the course for many years, as well as that long walk to the hotel last year.”

Winston Samarasingha

Winston, 40, began running as a child in Sri Lanka when he was asked by his mother to get kerosene from the store 6 miles away. He would run there and would be scared of the dark and would run back.

It was a dream to run Boston and the world’s major marathons. When he came to the United States, the opportunities arose. He was chosen through the lottery to run in New York and he ran in Chicago.

Winston’s dream of running Boston was beginning to take shape after attaining a qualifying time at the 2012 Carmel Marathon.

“I didn’t run a great marathon because I got dehydrated,” he said. “I didn’t hydrate well that day. I did, but it wasn’t enough.

“Mile 24, I had a good marathon, … so that’s where I struggled. I had to walk because I had to stop cramping and stuff. So finally, I ended at 3:38, so when I came to the finish line, I just walked, but I didn’t even know what was happening, so they took me to the tent. That’s where I was, I was getting IVs.

“I was like, ‘What happened?’ I didn’t even think it was a bomb. No one ever thinks that there’s going to be a bomb. You were running a marathon. All these beautiful people were waiting for you to finish. It’s a celebration.

“I had to rush out of the med tent. I wanted to help, but they were like, ‘No, you were just dehydrated, you have to go.’

“As a runner you can absorb a lot of things. It’s a bittersweet memory. It is like a nightmare. For the first few months, it affected my training. After about six months, the trauma went away. It comes back during some moments, but it’s gotten better.”

Winston’s goal is to run all six world major marathons. Next on his list is the London Marathon.

Ashley Sprunger

Ashley, 27, started running long distances in 2007 when she took a marathon course at Ball State. She qualified for Boston at the 2012 Twin Cities Marathon.

It was her first time running in Boston, and the hype surrounding it lived up to her expectations – until the bombs went off.

“I ran a personal best, so that was really great,” she said. “I was always told by everyone that there’s so much hype. It lived up to its hype. No one ever dreamed what happened would have ever happened. It was really great until that point.

“I had already crossed the finish line. I was with my family and friends in the meeting area and we were on our way back to the hotel. My reaction was basically pure shock. I didn’t understand what was going on in that moment. My emotions were on such a high after finishing and it took me down to such a low, I got physically ill after the race.”

Ashley’s finishing time qualified her for this year’s race, and she ran another personal best in Chicago.

“I don’t think there was ever a point in time where I thought I wasn’t going to run this year’s race,” she said. “Once all the effects set in, I knew I had to go back and run again just for all the people who weren’t able to finish and the victims. I wanted to be able to celebrate since that was taken away from me last year.”

Ashley is also registered to run the Berlin Marathon in September and was chosen through the lottery to run the New York City Marathon in November.

Grant Stieglitz

Grant, 29, is a Harlan native and an alumnus of Woodlan. He finished about an hour and a half before the first bomb went off.

“The goal time last year was 2 hours, 45 minutes and 31 seconds. That was my previous personal best. I finished in 2:44:21, for a new personal best, which also automatically qualified me for this year’s race,” he said. “Finishing felt pretty good. I just tried to stay humble and tried to keep moving.

“After finishing, I met with my folks, and we went back to the hotel about a half mile from the finish line. My folks went down to the mall to look around and I was just back in the hotel room, and I just had the water turned on, and nothing was going on, and I was just taking my ice bath and just thinking over the race.

“After about 30 to 45 minutes, I heard the door open and the door close. I figured that was my folks. It was weird because they said they were going to be awhile. They turned the TV on and there was breaking news that there had been commotion at the Boston Marathon area.

“This is not what we expected. This is not what I wanted to see. I was in tears when I heard the first victim was an 8-year old. This is a child, an innocent child. Just all of a sudden … just gone. There were two others. It was very overwhelming. I was angry.

“I couldn’t wear the medal the rest of my time in Boston. It just didn’t feel right to those who couldn’t finish. Once I was on the plane and in the air on my way home, then I took out my medal and put it on.

“It was a question mark whether or not I was going to run this year. In the end, I wanted to be a part of it. It’s going to be bigger and better.”

The 2014 Boston Marathon will be April 21. Live results can be followed on