While Daniel Ethier crossed the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line his wife stood five feet from a bomb. Luckily tradition drew her two blocks from two blasts of terror April 15.
Being a Boston Marathon veteran, with four others under his belt, Ethier knew the drill. The Colwood runner hopped on a bus at a 6 a.m. to travel to a small town called Hopkinton, there 25,000 runners waited to start the marathon. In the elite men’s category, Ethier had a 10 a.m. start time.
Wrapped in a black sleeping bag in the football field he chatted with fellow runners. An announcement over the speakers asked the runners to take part in a minute of silence for the victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.
“Every mile of the marathon there was a sign with the name of a student who died,” Ethier said not knowing another tragedy would unfold in a few short hours.
When Either got up to the start line he heard his favourite song I gotta feeling by the Black Eyed Peas.
“It was perfect weather, perfect song,” Ethier said, remembering how pumped he was. “The start of the race was special for me, to think of all I had gone through this past year.”
In February he suffered a stroke and had heart surgery in July.
“He shouldn’t be here,” said his close friend, Stacy McDougall.
“My neurologist told me what saved me was my fitness level,” Either said, adding the stroke was caused by an undetected birth defect in his heart.
During an MRI after his stroke the Colwood runner learned he had Multiple Sclerosis.
His body was still recovering from his year-long health struggles, and Ethier was ready to give up after 25 kilometres, but realized if he stopped in a little town he would have no way to get to back so he carried on.
All the while his wife Lynne Ethier was standing at the finish line five feet from a bomb in a black backpack.
“Looking back, she thinks she saw the black backpack. There were hundreds of thousands of people there and everyone had backpacks. My wife had a backpack,” Either said.
When he crossed the finish line, Either waved to his wife and carried on to get his medal. The couple has a meeting spot they use after each Boston Marathon, the corner of Boylston Street at Boston Commons park, just two blocks from the finish line.
Lynn headed there and waited for her husband.
When he didn’t show up she started to worry about his health and headed toward the medical tents near the finish line. He was getting medical care in a tent, but was soon released and headed to the meeting spot and his wife wasn’t there. On her way toward the finish line Lynn suddenly decided to return to the meeting spot in case her husband was there.
Four minutes after the couple met at their spot, they heard a loud explosion followed by another.
“It’s Patriots Day, I thought,” said Ethier.
Moments later the couple saw police officers race through the streets and emergency vehicles speed through intersections.
“We got to our hotel and there were people crying in the lobby. It wasn’t until we got up to our room and turned on Channel 7 when we found out it had been bombs,” Ethier said. “(On the news) I saw photos of blood on the sidewalk and thought, ‘that’s exactly where I was standing.’”
They frantically tried to respond to text messages letting family know they were OK when cell service stopped working. They were instructed to stay in their room and the airport was shut down.
Ethier watched airplanes circle the city, and emergency personnel scour the crime scene from his hotel room window.
Anxious to leave, the couple caught the first flight out on Tuesday, April 16, to Ottawa to visit family as planned prior to the attack.
Security at the airport was beefed up with military units patrolling with automatic weapons. The FBI asked passengers for any marathon photos or videos taken as they entered the plane. The couple landed in Ottawa surrounded by media and headed off with family.
This is the fifth time Ethier has run the Boston Marathon and if he qualifies again he’ll go back.
“It’s not Boston, it’s not the marathon, it was just a couple of local people who did this.”
Did you know:
Ethier ran his first Boston Marathon in 2008 after losing 75 pounds. Four years earlier, he started running weighing 240 pounds.
“I would go running at night so no one would see me because I was embarrassed,” Ethier said. “I would walk for one minute and then run, and then walk again.”
Either has finished marathons in New York, Chicago, Boston, Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto and Victoria.
Paying it forward:
A community workout will raise money for Boston Marathon bombing victims.
Boston Strong community workout is hosted by Strength in 2 Fitness in Colwood. Participants of all fitness abilities are encouraged to come out, build up a sweat and help raise some money for families of the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
The workout will include squats, pushups and core work.
Boston Strong community work out is April 27 at 9:15 a.m.
“It’s by donation, big or small,” said gym owner Stacy McDougall. “It is really important to celebrate life and we have the opportunity to help others too.”
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