Several Peninsula-area Boston Marathon participants reported safe; security vigilant in Hampton Roads

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.