Watching his family play a game of tag on a Boston-area playground Tuesday afternoon, Coon Rapids runner Wade Demmer couldn’t fathom how the previous day went from such a high-note to horrific after the bombings at the Boston Marathon Monday.
Demmer completed his third Boston Marathon in what he described as the best possible running conditions nearly two hours before the day took a horrific change.
He and his family (wife, Stacee, with children, Lachlan, 5 and Ruby, 4,) were walking away from the subway station when Wade received a call from his brother wondering if they were all right.
“We had no idea what happened,” Demmer said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.
An almost festival atmosphere greeted Demmer and his family the last two years after the marathon.
Most runners wore their running gear and finishers medal around town as a sense of pride and as a way to easily identify fellow runners.
Until Demmer and his family were off the subway, the mood was equally as jovial as the previous two years, even more so because of the perfect weather and even better time Demmer turned in.
“Runners are a special community so even though I didn’t know anyone, they’re all like family,” he said.“It’s a lifelong goal for people and the people who were hurt were the same type of people I would’ve been friends with.”
While on the subway, Demmer said the Red Sox game ended and baseball fans were mingling with runners, like usual. “Baseball people were asking about the race and we were asking about the game,” he said.
Once out of the subway station, those questions from strangers quickly turned to thoughts of concern.
“The day ended with ‘hey how are you doing’ instead of high fives,” Demmer said from the Boston Commons area Tuesday afternoon.
“Today the police force is extremely visible. We’ve seen so many fire trucks and homeland security vans.”
Demmer said people were out doing daily activities but a much more somber mood resonated throughout the area.
“You see and hear sirens and a bunch of vehicles going one direction and can’t help to think where they’re going or see a helicopter head in that same direction. We’re all getting kind of skittish.”
Demmer believed they were on one of the last trains before service was stopped, he said. “You put your game face on now with the kids,” Demmer said. “They have a sense that people were hurt but that’s about it.”
Wade finished his sixth marathon overall in 2:52:49, a personal best time for the Medtronic employee and Buffalo native who runs with a group of co-workers in addition to weekend runs around Coon Rapids.
He estimated about 8,000 runners of the more than 20,000 were left in the field after the race was stopped because of the blasts.
“They diverted runners to other areas for their safety and I talked to someone who was at 26 miles and she heard some noises,” Demmer, who has run the Twin Cities Marathon twice and Minneapolis Marathon once, said.
Running in the world’s oldest marathon turned into a family vacation with trips to museums and other sightseeing trips before Monday changed everything.
Demmer said he felt guilty for putting his family in harm’s way after what was supposed to be a relaxing getaway. “It’s kind of hard to process everything,” he said, referring to the tight-knit running community that was shaken but stuck together.
“You meet all of the fellow runners on the bus, at the starting gate and on the course and wonder if they made it through all right,” Demmer said.
According to Demmer, the bond developed between runners is strong, especially for those in the Boston Marathon. “It’s the only race where every runner has to qualify,” Demmer said. “You don’t just sign-up for it, other than charity runners, but it’s the fastest 20,000 runners in the world.”
“I ran with someone from Ecuador then Japan and today we ate lunch alongside a family from Spain. Everyone knows about the Kenyans but everyone is represented. It’s this big international thing and not just a marathon of people from Boston.”
Demmer said the family planned to stay in a hotel in South Boston this evening before flying back to Minnesota April 17.
Jason Olson is at firstname.lastname@example.org