PARKERSBURG - Traditionally, the Boston Marathon is a day of celebration for members of the local running community.
But Monday turned into a day of tragedy when word hit that bombs had exploded at the finish line, causing deaths and injuries.
"It was a shock - one 'cause I had just been on that block 20 minutes before," said Marietta High School graduate Jacob Malcomb, 25, of Canton, N.Y. "That just seems so out of synch with the atmosphere of that event."
People react as an explosion goes off near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon in Boston Monday. Two bombs exploded in the packed streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing three people and injuring more than 140 in a terrifying scene of shattered glass, bloodstained pavement and severed limbs, authorities said. (Associated Press)
Just qualifying for the marathon is an achievement, finishing it a milestone.
"It's such a special event," said Malcomb, pointing out that he was running the same course as elite runners from around the globe. "There aren't very many sports where you can compete against the best in the world as just a regular athlete."
The news hit the local running community hard.
"I really feel for the runners,'' said Willis Ridenour of Parkersburg, who ran the Boston Marathon 11 times, his final one at age 75. "Many who participated didn't get to the finish line. I'm sure they were worried about their loved ones who were waiting at the finish line.''
Ridenour said beginning at the 25-mile mark and stretching to the finish line, spectators are wall-to-wall.
"People are jammed along the sidelines,'' he said.
Ridenour noted the street on which the participants finish is wide.
"The blast happened on the left side of the street,'' he said. "I ran on the right because there was less runners there.''
Amber Carter of Vienna and her husband, John, competed in the Boston Marathon two years ago. The couple were glued to CNN and watching as some runners continued toward the finish line during the explosions.
"On the television, you could see a couple of people who didn't even turn," Carter said. "At the end of a marathon, you are so dazed and out of it that you don't realize your surroundings. You just have tunnel vision and want to finish.
"You have to be a runner to be able to appreciate those who didn't turn around when they heard the blast."
Chip Allman, who serves as the race director for the News and Sentinel Half Marathon and has been to the Boston race multiple times, said he was surprised there weren't more injuries.
Allman noted that because the blast happened at the 4 hour, 9 minute mark of the race, some of the crowd likely had thinned out by then.
As the race director of the local half marathon, Allman always makes the safety of the participants, spectators and volunteers a priority.
Art Smith, the logistics director for the News and Sentinel Half Marathon, said race officials work closely with local law enforcement.
"Their help is indispensable to the race,'' he said.
Smith, who spends a great deal of race day at the finish line, said finish lines by their very nature are "a chaotic place. There are lots of participants and family members. I really feel for those people. It is your worst nightmare. No matter how diligent you are, there are some things that happen you can't control.''
Dave Knost of Vienna participated in Monday's Boston Marathon, but had finished the 26.1-mile course long before the explosion. A local friend talked to Knost and confirmed he was safe before officials cut off cell phone service in the Boston area.
Carter and her husband heard through their circle of friends that Knost and another River City Runners and Walkers Club member Roger Quinby had already finished and were clear of the area by the time of the explosions.
"Our first thought was who was in this year's Boston Marathon from the River City Runners and Walkers Club," Carter said. "We are all kind of a family. These are people we train with and wanted to make sure they were OK."
Carter and her husband contemplated about competing in this year's Boston Marathon, but decided against it because of financial reasons and the amount of days they needed to be away from home. Last fall, they arrived in New York City for another marathon, but the race was canceled because of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Her current plans include competing in the Kentucky Derby marathon on April 27.
"It's been a rough year for marathons," Carter said. "You feel for all those people who were still in the race (at the Boston Marathon). Obviously, they knew the race had been canceled but here you have all these people who had been diverted all different directions. They had no phone or no warm clothes and they needed to meet up with friends and family in a specific location."