San Francisco runners recall Boston Marathon bombings while pledging to push on 

click to enlarge “It was pure chaos,” said Jamie Saunders, a participant of this year's Boston Marathon. - METROWEST DAILY NEWS/KEN MCGAGH/AP
  • MetroWest Daily News/Ken McGagh/AP
  • “It was pure chaos,” said Jamie Saunders, a participant of this year's Boston Marathon.

Drew Mickel heard the blast while he was sipping on an Anchor Steam in the bar at the Westin Copley Place Boston hotel. He had just completed his 16th straight Boston Marathon and was celebrating with his Olympic Club friends roughly 350 feet away from the finish line.

“You could feel it,” said Mickel, a Piedmont resident. “It rocked the glass and you knew something had happened.”

Within minutes, spectators were racing past the windows, news reports were flashing on TV and word quickly spread that a bomb had exploded at the finish line.

“It was pure chaos,” said Jamie Saunders, a friend of Mickel’s.

For local athletes such as Mickel and Saunders, the Boston Marathon is an annual tradition, a place where friends and family come together to celebrate their passion for running. And the horrific bombings Monday that killed three people and injured more than 170 could impact the race and other big marathons in the future.

“It just really hits home,” Mickel said. “It darkens what is otherwise an incredibly positive event.”  

But Saunders said the running community should not look back.

“We need to keep running,” Saunders said. “You don’t want this behavior to impact your commitment to continuing to try to be the best that you believe you can be.”

The attack could dampen the mood at races, though, including Bay to Breakers in May and the San Francisco Marathon in June. At this point, some runners are questioning whether they want to participate in the biggest races.

Todd Mathias, who lives in The City and competed in Monday’s race with his father, said he   has a friend who expressed such sentiments.

“He said, ‘This is the pinnacle that everyone trains for and wants to be able to participate in, but I’m starting to second-guess whether it’s worth it,’” Mathias said.

Marathons present unique surveillance challenges because the crowds are dispersed over several miles, they’re dense and the races lack secure entrance points.

“It’s really hard to manage a race,” Mickel said. “You can get access from so many different spots, and on top of that everyone is always carrying a lot of gear.”

But Brian Ray, president of the club San Francisco FrontRunners, said he expects the running community to rally around events such as Bay to Breakers and next year’s Boston Marathon.

“If anything, many people are now wanting to run a marathon because of this, or to run in the Boston Marathon next year to show ongoing support,” he said.

In a media statement, Bay to Breakers director Angela Fang said she has contacted law enforcement officials and the event will update its security plans as necessary.

pgackle@sfexaminer.com

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Paul Gackle

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