Thank goodness for seven minutes.
Spencer Lofts resident Bobby Gaudreau has never been so thankful for just a few extra minutes, but those few minutes might have saved him from grievous injury, and certainly saved him from being at ground zero for Monday’s bombing attacks at the Boston Marathon.
Having come across the finish line, Gaudreau said he wasn’t feeling well and needed some salt and minor medical attention. After gathering his breath for a few minutes, he walked over to the medical tent.
He ate some chips.
They put a blanket on him.
Someone draped a medal over his neck.
Then a photographer came over to take his picture.
As the shutter snapped, about 200 yards away came the biggest boom Gaudreau had ever heard, and with that sound the world changed.
“Literally just as the guy snapped the picture the first bomb when off,” he said. “Like most other people, we thought it was a cannon or fireworks associated with the Marathon. There was so much smoke and it was a really loud sound, but no one knew what it was. Then, 20 seconds later, the other bomb went off. That’s when I remember thinking, ‘This is not good.’ I was about 200 or 300 yards away from that first bomb and it was really loud.”
After that, despite being physically limited from the run, Gaudreau said adrenaline started to kick in and everyone started scattering.
“What was really scary for me is I didn’t have my cell phone on me, and I run for the McCourt Family Foundation, so I had many friends and family with me to go to the post-Marathon party at the Lenox Hotel. I had seen my aunts and uncles in the grandstand yelling for me when I crossed the finish line, and I didn’t know who else might be caught up in this. That was really when reality started to hit.
“Smoke was still all over the place from the first bomb and about 10 ambulances raced past me,” he continued. “There was all this screaming you could hear, but you didn’t know if it was happy screaming or what. When you started seeing all the ambulances coming in so fast and the looks on the police officers’ faces, you knew this was very bad. I began to try to get to the Lenox to find my family and police officers were telling people to go back. I couldn’t go back. I didn’t even know where my wife and my son were.”
The next 20 minutes or so was total chaos.
“I would say it was controlled chaos,” he recalled. “You look back on it and everyone seemed to know what they were doing, but at the same time no one seemed to know what they were doing. I was confused. You began wondering that if bombs went off, are there other ones around? Is this just the start of something much larger? When you have so many people crammed in a small space with barricades and barriers, there are only so many places you can go to escape.”
Gaudreau said he kept trying to get to the Lenox Hotel, but every route he tried to take kept getting blocked off and police wouldn’t let him cross. He wandered around streets, halfway lost, seeing panicked people pass by with blood on their shirts and soot all over their bodies.
Finally, he found his way to the Lenox and got there just as they were blocking off the entrance. He managed to sneak past the barricades and get inside.
“I got there and it was just such a sense of relief because the police officer had put up a barricade and was telling me they were going to evacuate the hotel,” he said. “Right in the lobby of the hotel was a TV and you could really get an idea of what truly was going on.”
Gaudreau said he was fortunate in that his wife was still at work at an area hospital, and his son was still in daycare at Fanueil Hall. They hadn’t come down to see him finish.
“We agreed to meet at Fanueil Hall and they were evacuating the hotel, so I just started walking,” he said. “After running a Marathon, here I am walking a few more miles downtown. It was all adrenaline at that point.”
Gaudreau said making his way from the scene of the bombing to Fanueil Hall was extremely surreal because once he got to the Boston Common, no one knew what had happened.
Life was going on as usual, even though the world had been turned upside down a few blocks away.
“I got to Park Street Station and it was surreal; it was like being in a different world,” he said. “People were playing Frisbee, guys dressed like clowns were making balloon animals, and the Merry-Go-Round was going like nothing had happened,” he said. “Word was starting to spread, but I don’t think people really appreciated what was truly going on only a few blocks away.”
Once meeting his wife at Fanueil Hall, the family drove back to Chelsea to decompress and locate family members. Once they knew everyone was safe, Gaudreau said they went to Charlestown to be around friends who had also been running.
“We met at Ironsides in Charlestown and kind of had our own therapy session there,” he said.
Gaudreau, 38, is a veteran marathon runner – having completed 17 races, nine of them being the Boston Marathon – and Monday’s race was one of his career-best efforts as he officially came in under his goal of four hours. A Vice President of Sales at the software company IMN and running for the McCourt Foundation – a well-known family whom he has known all his life – Gaudreau had hit a jolt of energy with about three miles to go.
He said everything had worked out for him like never before, making the post-race events that much more ironic.
“This was the best time I’ve had,” he said. “It was by far the best marathon I’ve ever done, and it was my 17th marathon. Everything just came together. The crowd was larger than I’ve ever seen. My time was right where I wanted it to be. The weather was fantastic.”
Naturally, when he thinks back to how he ran the race, he said he begins to consider the what-ifs.
“This year I didn’t eat right and started to feel it towards the end,” he said. “Right before you turn onto Boylston Street, I stopped and actually stretched a little on the scaffolding to the side. I keep thinking that I very easily could have waited another quarter-mile and stretched there. That would have meant being right where the bomb went off.”
And that’s why just a handful of minutes make such a difference.
DID YOU RUN THE MARATHON?
A group of City leaders are teaming up to reach out to local residents who may have run in this past Monday’s Boston Marathon. City Manager Jay Ash, City Councillor Leo Robinson, CHS Athletic Director Frank DePatto and School Committeewoman Jeanette Velez are eager to help local marathoners bring some sense of closure to the race marred by the bombing attack that happened at the finish line.
“We’d like to make sure that our marathoners are alright, physically and mentally, and we’d like to recognize their feat in a special way,” said Ash. The group is available to aid marathoners in searching for belongings, reaching out to the Boston Athletic Association to coordinate assistance, and possibly setting up a local finish for those who were unable to make it to the finish line. Marathoners should contact email@example.com or call Ash at 617-466-4100 to identify themselves and get more details.