The third Monday in April in Boston started off as, in the words of Carolyn Corgel, “a fantastic day.” She was running in her ninth Boston Marathon under great conditions. Corgel developed some physical problems after 10 miles, which forced her to slow down a bit and essentially give up on any hopes of a personal best. Still, she was on a pace that would put her only a few minutes behind what would be a good time for her.
Everyone knows what happened next.
“I don’t know exactly where I was - mile 24 or 25,” the Springville runner said. “I heard what sounded like a cannon.”
Corgel talked to another runner, and heard that there had been “an incident.”
She thought to herself, a runner could have been hit by a car, or there was a car accident that closed the road.
Corgel later discovered that she completely stopped running after 25.86 miles, only a short distance from completing the 26.2-mile distance.
“I finally went to a policeman, and he said it was more than an incident - it was two bombs that went off,” she said. “I’m a runner. I’m not thinking about the magnitude of the situation yet. I just thought somebody did something stupid.
“Five minutes later, we were all congregated and I said to the policeman, ‘We aren’t finishing this, are we?’ He looked at me and chuckled - ‘No, maam, it’s a crime scene.’ ”
That’s when the situation finally registered for Corgel. A spectator lent her a cell phone so that she could send a text message to her husband, saying she was fine and to meet her at the usual place.
“He got back to me,” she said. “He was fine, and said thank God you’re OK. I ran a mile, the fastest mile I’ve ever run.”
It took Corgel a while to finally get back together with her husband. She went into the Prudential Center, and was immediately told the building was being evacuated. Corgel says she must have looked like she was going to cry, because two volunteers asked what she needed and set up a meeting point with her husband by the Marriott. From there it was a matter of collecting luggage and heading to the airport for the trip back to Buffalo.
“When we finally got to the airport and turned on the TV on the airplane, I realized the enormity of the incident,” she said. “A bunch of emotions went through me. They took something as innocent as Boston, and they made it very ugly.”
Corgel, 55, thought about the friends who were running in the race, and their friends and relatives who were around the finish line. She also remembered that had it not been for an injury, she might have been right around the finish line when the bombs went off.
When Corgel returned to Springville, she tried to return to something of a regular routine but was still drawn to news concerning the search for the suspects. She let out with an exhale that could have been heard throughout her town when the police chase ended a week ago Friday.
“I just wanted to find out what happened,” she said. “Part of the relief came when they captured him.”
Then two days later, she gathered with many others - some of whom had run in Boston as well - in Delaware Park in a tribute run to show solidarity with the people of Boston. That provided even more closure.
“I don’t think I realized how many runners are out there, how it’s a community. We may not know each other, but we’re there for camaraderie. That helped,” she said.
Some runners who didn’t finish the race have wondered if they will eventually receive finisher’s medals. Corgel says when she thinks about a man who lost his legs, a medal isn’t that important. As she put it, “He can never run or walk again. I can.”
For Corgel, the story now comes down to a couple of key questions. Will she go back next year? It’s too soon to know.
“I’m trying to do marathons in 50 states,” she said. “This was supposed to be my last Boston. But I don’t want the person who did this to think it’s my last one because of what he did. I was planning on doing another marathon. Maybe I need to do Boston.”
The other question is: Will marathoning ever be the same after this?
“I thought about going to Disney World or to other races,” Corgel said. “You bring the backpack along. Are we going to be searched now? The total joy of innocence was taken away. I’m sure it will be totally different now. Runners who run for the sake of running will be looking over their shoulders. Is there a bomb that was left to an attempt to make a point? I know I’ll be thinking about it.
“Boston was something I cherished. I still can’t believe somebody did that.”
• BPAC 6-Hour Distance Classic, Northtown Center in Amherst, 8 a.m. today.
• NCCC Alumni Association’s 5K Run, 3111 Saunders Settlement Road in Sanborn, 6 p.m. on Friday, 614-5910.
• Catalyst Race for a Cause, 5K, 2745 Seneca St. in West Seneca, 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 824-4655.
• Allegany Adventure Runs, 6K, 13K & 22K trail runs, Allegany State Park in Salamanca, 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, 574-0888.
• GBTC Grand Island Half Marathon, Beaver Island State Park in Grand Island, 10 a.m. on Saturday.
• Running Water 5K, Northtown Center in Amherst, 10 a.m. on Saturday, 536-3004.
• Terri Krieger Memorial 5K Run, 189 North Gravel Road in Medina, 2 p.m. on Saturday, (585) 589-5516 x227.