When the two blasts occurred on Boylston Street, the time stamp read 4 hours 9 minutes on the race clock. Those who crossed the finish line at that moment were some of the last to do so in the 2013 Boston Marathon, as the Boston Athletic Association soon shut down the race in the wake of the explosions at 2:50 p.m. Monday.
Runners were diverted off the race course and onto Commonwealth Avenue, as police and ambulances rushed to the scene. Shortly after, no one was allowed to make the turn onto Hereford Street or the turn onto Boylston Street. They instead, continued straight, without any understanding of why they were not following the traditional course.
“I’ll never forget that one, that’s for sure. It was a nightmare,” said Mike Beeman, 56, of Tifton, Ga. He estimated he was less than .2 miles from the blasts, having made the turn onto Boylston.
Of the 23,326 runners who started the Marathon, 17,584 finished before the race was stopped. There were 4,496 runners who made it to the 40-kilometer mark — where runners enter Boston — but did not cross the finish line, with the last recorded finisher at approximately 2:57 p.m. That meant 1,246 runners never made it to the 40K mark, either dropping out or being stopped from continuing.
Runners who had reached St. Ignatius Church, at the Newton-Boston line near Boston College, were held at that point.
“The Boston Athletic Association extends its deepest sympathies to all those who were affected in any way by today’s events,” the BAA said in a statement released at 8 p.m. Monday.
“Today is a sad day for the City of Boston, for the running community, and for all those who were here to enjoy the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. What was intended to be a day of joy and celebration quickly became a day in which running a marathon was of little importance.”
Beeman, running his 36th consecutive Boston Marathon, said he was evacuated into “strange areas.” He ended up walking down Boylston Street toward Massachusetts Avenue, retreating from the scene.
“They told us to keep moving and were shoving us and people were running into us,” said Beeman, who eventually got a ride from a stranger, then hopped into a cab. “We didn’t know what was going on. It was just weird. I couldn’t get out of the city.”
He already had made the turn from Hereford, along with hundreds of other runners, but got no farther. “We literally retreated,’’ he said. “That’s when I actually said, ‘To hell with the finish.’ ”
Beeman, along with others, wanted to check in with family, including his daughter, who had accompanied him to the Marathon. He couldn’t get a cellphone signal.
“It was probably a minute or two, but it felt like time was frozen,” said Beeman, who added that he would be back for the Marathon next year. “It was just an eerie, eerie feeling, and I don’t want to experience that again.
“I got a little emotional afterward, because I was just worried about [my daughter’s] state of mind. Actually, I’m worried about my state of mind. It looked like a scene out of 9/11.”
Control of the scene and situation shifted quickly from the BAA to the Boston police.
The BAA announced at the Fairmont Copley hotel that a secure area had been set up on Boston Common for families to meet.
But that never happened, with the police and BAA deciding not to bring masses of people into one location so close to the scene. Instead, runners were diverted and dispersed, with the police urging people to leave the Back Bay.
While runners were being stopped from completing the race, there wasn’t much information for those who had finished. Steve Brady, who was volunteering as support for the runners on the Dana-Farber team, was waiting by the intersection of Berkeley and Stuart streets to help finishers.
Brady said that route was suddenly closed off with runners being instead funneled toward Arlington Street.
There was significant confusion, he said, in the area after the finish line.
“We were wearing shirts that said ‘volunteer’ on them, so people would just come up to us, ask us for help,” said Brady, who helped a 65-year-old woman from British Columbia to her hotel. “No one really knew what was going on, but no one was really panicking or freaking out. People were just sad and confused. Lost.”
Information from the BAA was released in dribs and drabs, but it was announced that the awards ceremony and postrace party were cancelled. With the Fairmont Copley, where the BAA and media were headquartered, in lockdown, there was little information flow.
One issue for the BAA was the hundreds of yellow bags full of runners’ belongings that were left behind on Berkeley Street, stranded due to the closing of the area. Usually that baggage is laid out in the streets to be claimed by participants. That wasn’t allowed with everything that had gone on.
Volunteers were still trying to reunite runners with their belongings at 7:30 p.m., nearly five hours after the blasts.
“They’re just running with no contact with the outside world and then people are giving them mixed directions,” said volunteer Jenn Staretorp of the finishers. “They just knew that they were cold. They didn’t know where their bags were, they don’t know where their families are, so we’ve just been trying to help alleviate that a little bit.”
Those bags can be picked up on Berkeley Street, between St. James and Boylston, with a bib number or proof of race participation, said the BAA, which canceled Tuesday’s postrace media conference.
“At this time, we are cooperating with the City of Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and all federal law enforcement officials,” the statement continued.
“We would like to thank the countless people from around the world who have reached out to support us today.”