A trio of Nevada County runners who participated in Monday’s Boston Marathon were uninjured, despite two of the participants crossing the finish line just moments before the fatal terrorist attack.
Michelle Hughes and Linda Hegle returned for their second year and were joined by Jim Pelton for his first Boston Marathon appearance. All are members of the Gold Country Triathlon Club who traveled from Nevada County to Boston to participate in the world-famous event.
“I was 100 yards away from where the first bomb went off,” Hughes said Monday afternoon from a hotel in Boston. “Linda finished the race 2 minutes before.”
Hughes finished about 7 minutes before the first explosion detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. She and Pelton were awaiting Hegle, who crossed the finish line at approximately 4:01:31. Little more than a minute following her finish, the fist blast rocked the finish line area, Hegle said.
“A lot of people felt it. I saw it,” said Hegle, who was about 50 yards from the blast. “I never heard something so loud in my life. The ground shook.”
Hughes said she was standing beyond the finish line when the bomb exploded. She could see the flags waving from the force of the blast.
“About 15 seconds later, another bomb went off, and you could see the shrapnel in the street,” Hughes said.
Hughes said she saw a large group of people running toward her, screaming in obvious panic.
“When the first bomb went off, people who were standing around handing out water and blankets, they started to run,” Hegle said. “I saw people fall down.”
Hughes slowly made her way against the grain, back toward the finish line to reunite with her husband, Nelson Hughes, who was standing with Pelton. On the way, Michelle Hughes saw a pair of college-aged kids run by covered in blood, saying they were on their way to Massachusetts General Hospital to donate blood.
“They said there were a lot of people injured,” Hughes said.
The group of Nevada County residents made their way back to their hotel outside the city.
Back in Nevada County, Robert Hegle had just gotten a text message update that his wife, Linda Hegle, had crossed the finish line and took the opportunity to go meet a friend for lunch at the Alta Sierra Country Club. It was only when he got there that he saw news coverage of the havoc in Boston.
“I damn-near fainted,” Robert Hegle said. “She’s safe, a little shaken. But it was scary to say the least.”
Robert Hegle spent the subsequent hours, after learning his wife and her friends were safe, relaying that information to concerned family and friends, he said.
“It’s been a difficult three hours,” he said.
Another Nevada County resident, Jeff Boutte, was also participating in the race, said friend Carol Roth.
“He did finish, and they are OK,” she said. “They were in a building that had to be evacuated.
Michelle Hughes said she couldn’t help but reflect how a few slight changes in the race might have put her in more direct danger at the finish line.
“There were times in the middle of the race where I thought about slowing down, but then said, ‘No, no, I will push myself,’” Michelle Hughes said. “I mean, I was so close. It’s crazy.”
Michelle Hughes said Monday night that her hotel was on lockdown with a law enforcement officer guarding the building. She and her husband were scheduled to return to Nevada County via airplane Tuesday, but both said they were unsure if they would make their scheduled flight.
Both Nelson and Michelle Hughes said they felt safe despite the day’s unsettling events.
Gold Country Triathlon Club is a local nonprofit dedicated to the “education pursuit of triathlon, general physical fitness and the representation of the sport of triathlon within western Nevada County.”
“A lot of people felt it. I saw it. I never heard something so loud in my life. The ground shook.”
— Linda Hegle,
Nevada County resident who ran in the Boston Marathon