It was Williamsburg resident Matt Boothe’s first marathon. He never got to finish.
Boothe and running companion Lynn Howard of York County were participating in Monday’s Boston Marathon when the explosions that killed two and injured more than 100 stopped the race.
“We were 0.2 miles from the finish line,” Booth said, when the marathon runners were stopped by Boston police. Boothe and Howard ran back to the hotel to get to their cell phones and contact family members and friends who were at the finish line, near where the explosions occurred.
“I ran a little faster,” Boothe said, despite having finished nearly 26 miles.
Boothe’s father, Brian Christiansen, was at the finish line about 20 feet away from one of the devices when it exploded.
“It’s not good,” Christiansen said briefly. “I still can’t hear very well.”
Howard, pastor of Wave Church in Williamsburg, said he would have been closer, but had doubled back to finish with Boothe.
“We heard one or two explosions, then two others,” Howard said. “We got to (about) the 25-mile point and they stopped us. The race was over right there.”
Boothe said he was still shaken from the event, glued to the television in the hotel for news. He said he heard the explosions, but it was hard to tell what it was because there was so much noise on the course.
“It’s a pretty ominous feeling,” he said.
At least 16 Peninsula-area runners were slated to participate in the Boston Marathon. Two runners from Quinton in New Kent County also were among those registered.
Tom Keefe, 63, of York County, finished the marathon a minute before the blast occurred. He was getting a bottle of water when he heard the first explosion. “At first I thought a transformer blew,” Keefe said. This is the fourth time he’s completed the Boston Marathon. He turned around to see the smoke rising in the air.
Then seconds later he heard another blast. “Obviously then I thought that this could be a terrorist event,” Keefe said. He said people within his vicinity remained calm as did the police officers near him.
“There wasn’t any panic,” he said. Keefe tried to call his wife, Dawn, who decided before the race instead of meeting him at the finish line that she’d tour Harvard. But his cell phone wouldn’t work.
His wife was on her way back to the hotel on the subway, which was stopped shortly after the blast. The conductor announced they were stopped for a “medical emergency.” It wasn’t until nearly three hours later when she unlocked the door of her hotel room that he knew she was okay.
George Neil, a Williamsburg runner and member of the Colonial Road Runners Association, said he is OK.
“I finished 13 minutes before the explosion. It must have been terrible, because when I was there, it was packed with people to the point you couldn’t walk,” Neil said.
University of Virginia men's cross country coach Pete Watson said he, his brother, Rob — who finished 11th Monday — and other early world-class runners were at an organized lunch about 200 meters from the finish line when they heard the explosions.
“We're OK, and obviously we're thinking about all those people who are not. ... I can't imagine those who have been traumatized by this,” Watson said.
Around 7 p.m., Watson and his party were in the restaurant at their hotel, where no one was being allowed to leave the building.
“We can see and hear the ambulances and police outside doing their jobs,” Watson said.
"We were quickly asked to leave the Boston downtown area, said Dawn Wilson Lobosco, a teacher from Providence Forge who finished the marathon. As we walked approximately 2-3 miles towards MIT, we saw and heard the cries and encounters of those who were front row to the bombings."
Virginia reaction and security
Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is in China on a trade mission, released a statement from his office after he was briefed on the situation.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston, and with marathon participants and attendees from around the country and the world, including many from here in Virginia, following the tragic events of this afternoon,” McDonnell said.
“There are no words that can properly express our grief and our concern. I have asked members of our Administration to immediately offer any and all assistance that Virginia can provide to Massachusetts in the days ahead.”
On Monday, agencies around Hampton Roads said they were being vigilant in the wake of the attacks.
“Operators have been asked to look a little more carefully through the trains as they move through them on their return trips. The system is operating normally,” said Hampton Roads Transit spokesman Tom Holden.
Jessica Wharton, a spokeswoman for Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport, said she didn't know if travelers from Boston Logan International Airport would be affected by the attacks. NNWI does not have any direct flights to or from the airport.
“Our police are on 24 hours a day ... they're just being extra viligant and keeping their eyes open like they always do,” Wharton said.
“While we do not discuss specific force protection levels, be assured that security measures in place at Navy installation in the Mid-Atlantic region are appropriate,” said Beth Baker, a spokeswoman for the Navy Mid-Atlantic regional command.
“Access to installations is limited to those with proper identification cards and credentials. Our security personnel are highly trained and extremely competent. We consistently monitor the intelligence reports and potential threats, and are prepared to increase the security condition in the region if and when necessary.”
Daily Press staff writers Austin Bogues, Andi Petrini and David Teel, and The Virginia Gazette and Tidewater Review, contributed to this story.