Running scared

John Stegeman, PDT Sports Editor

April 26, 2013

Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

When sisters Danielle Morgan and Kelly Wheeler, of Pike County, crossed the finish line at 2013 Boston Marathon in 3:38 time, they knew it was a day they would always remember. They had no idea then that so would the rest of the world.

After finishing the Columbus Marathon in 3:30 time, Morgan, of Waverly, and Wheeler, of Piketon, qualified to compete in the 2013 Boston Marathon and decided it would be a fun experience.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Morgan said.

At the 117th Annual Boston Marathon on April 15, the sisters completed triumphantly with a time of 3:38. They were only about a block-and-a-half away when the bombs exploded 45 minutes later on Boylston Street. Three people were killed and nearly 300 were injured.

Morgan said they didn’t think much about it at first.

“We had just met up with my mom and my brother-in-law, and we had just started talking to them a little bit when we heard the two explosions. The people around us, nobody really …. I mean, your first thought is not that it’s a bomb. I kind of thought construction, maybe, and it was like the echoes of the buildings around it. It was so loud,” she said.

Morgan said people watching the news at home knew about the bomb before a lot of people who were actually at the marathon. She said they didn’t know what was going on until her grandparents called.

“Mom was the one that talked to gran and grandpa,” Wheeler said. “You’d have to know my grandparents. They don’t get too worked up about much of anything. So when grandpa calls and is freaking out, we knew it was really bad.”

The sisters were walking to the subway to go back to their hotel, but the tunnels were closed after the bombings.

“No one knew where the bombers went, and we started hearing these rumors that there were possibly other bombs planted. That’s when I got concerned,” Wheeler said.

They were walking through the streets of Boston when someone asked if they needed help, and pointed them to safe site where they were put onto a bus. The bus was taking everybody, Morgan said, just to move people away from the area. It took nearly two hours after the explosion before they returned to their hotel. They had already planned to go home immediately after the marathon, and their car was packed and waiting for them when they arrived at their hotel.

Morgan said she isn’t sure she ever wants to try the Boston Marathon again — but not because of the explosions. She said it was just so difficult to finish.

“I don’t feel like it tainted the experience. I really enjoyed the race, and I do hate that this happened, but it was still a really good time,” Morgan said. “I think because I didn’t see any of the aftermath and because I didn’t experience firsthand what had happened — I literally heard the noise. What happened was horrendous, but I feel like it’s hard for me to grasp because I didn’t see all of it.”

Her sister, Kelly, says things could have been a lot worse for them.

“When I see that bomb go off (on the news), I think, ‘Oh my gosh, I went right by there 50 minutes ago and they could have just as easily planted them when I went by’,” Wheeler said. “Whenever I see the video of it, my heart just sinks because if we had stopped — and there was more than one time when I thought ‘I cannot finish this race’ — if we had given up or stopped and started walking and we crossed the finish line at that time, my mom and husband were standing near where that first bomb had gone off and they could have just as easily been standing there as those people.”

Despite the experience, Wheeler said she will not let this stop her from running in the marathon again, if she ever has another chance.

Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.