Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

April 16, 2013

Former Boston Marathoners reflect on tragedy

Debbie Blank
The Herald-Tribune

BATESVILLE — “I get real emotional” thinking about the Boston Marathon devastation, reports Jim Bruns, Batesville, who competed there in 2003-07.

“The race is important, but not that big of a deal” compared to reportedly three killed and more than 130 injured after a pair of blasts Monday, April 15, around 2:50 p.m.

He flashed back to his first Boston Marathon. His youngest child, Bridget, “was at the finish line giving me a hug.” Bridget was around the age of the boy who was killed there Monday. “We have a photo taken a block from where he was killed,” according to the 53-year-old.

The dead “could be any one of us.”

He reflects, “Once the little boy got killed, I got hit with the humanity of it.”

As the athlete who now bikes and practices yoga watched the news unfold, Bruns saw the ubiquitous photo of marathoner Bill Iffrig, 78, knocked over by one of the explosions. The Batesville man’s competitive spirit kicked in. “All I wanted to know was ‘Did he finish?’”

A friend of his, Kelly Schoenefeld, Lawrenceburg, registered for the 2013 Boston. Bruns went to the Web site and saw no time was posted for her. He wondered, “Did she get killed?” Then he realized the list was of entrants, not finishers. Schoenfeld did complete the 26.2-mile course. “What a tremendous relief.”

“Like 9/11, I knew people that knew people” who were running in Boston. “All of a sudden ... (the tragic news) just really kind of ripped my heart out.”

He sat at home praying. That night, between volunteering at two Southeastern Indiana YMCA tae kwon do classes, “they asked me to say a prayer” for the killed and injured and their surviving family members.

Oldenburg Academy head track coach Merle Hines was at practice when two assistant coaches listening to the radio told her two died at the marathon. Hines, who ran that race five times, in 1983, 1985, 1986, 1991 and 1998, says, “At first I thought it was heart attacks.”

In the past 24 hours, “I have had more e-mails from all over the U.S. They were all afraid I was there.”

According to the 68-year-old, “I heard something today that really, really makes sense. When you run a marathon, you feel so much love, especially in Boston. There are people all along the whole entire course” praising and applauding the runners. Love also radiates from the athletes’ families “because they had to sacrifice” during grueling training schedules. “And then to have this happen.”

“Here that little boy was there to cheer his dad on. It’s tragic, it’s just so tragic. Whoever it was (who planned the explosions), cowards, they didn’t go to a bowl game,” which typically has metal detectors. “They go to a place where they feel undetected. That’s what happened at Sandy Hook.”

“I was just really sad” to learn about the tragedy, says Amy Fledderman, Batesville, who trained and ran the Boston Marathon with Hines and Hines’ husband, Bill, in 1998. She received a text message from her brother while coaching track at Batesville Middle School Monday.

“Distance runners, I just think, are great, good people .... It takes a lot to be an Olympic runner.  To me, running Boston is the second best thing. You work so hard for that.” Now she worries the event will be “tainted.”

Does this incident discourage Fledderman from running in future marathons? “It probably wouldn’t stop me, but it would be on my mind,” says the 39-year-old.

Hines admits, “If I run another marathon, I’m going to be concerned. It’s not going to stop me from running races, but it’s the innocence of it all” that has been lost.

After the blasts, Bruns was chatting with Dee Saler, Batesville, who plans to run her first Flying Pig in Cincinnati May 5. She told him, “‘I have to run. I can’t be afraid.’”

Bruns feels the same way she does. “If we don’t (carry out plans because of fear of terror activities), then we lose.”