Local runners reflect on marathon attack

Posted: April 17, 2013

SUSAN McGARRY had planned to spend Tuesday morning with her husband, Richard, taking pictures and celebrating the completion of her first Boston Marathon, the gold standard for runners all over the world.

Instead, the Philadelphia couple returned home and spent the day like many Americans - thinking about the devastation of the terrorist attacks that killed three people and injured more than 170 - and pondering the "what ifs."

"The whole thing just seemed surreal. I felt more emotional [on Tuesday]," said Susan McGarry, a 46-year-old registered school nurse who finished the race nine minutes before the explosions.

Her husband, also an avid runner, crossed the finish line an hour earlier and was already back at their hotel. "[I'm] just thinking of those people that were affected and how horrible it was for their families. . . . And then I start to think if I was a little bit slower, I would have been there."

Many of the local runners who returned home from the event Tuesday were still coming to grips with what happened.

"It just totally changed the whole mood, the whole idea you're going to celebrate anything," said Richard McGarry, who owns Bucks County Running Co. in Doylestown and ran the race for the fourth time Monday. "It just puts things into a different perspective."

Susan McGarry described walking past federal law-enforcement agents clutching high-powered assault weapons at Logan International Airport as they boarded the return flight home. Despite the terror, the couple said they would not hesitate to run in the event next year.

"I would not let something like that hold me back. That would be like saying I'm never going to go to a Phillies game . . . you keep living," Richard McGarry said.

Sarah German, of Exton, Chester County, and her friend Stacey Rohrbeck, of Devon, were 0.7 miles from the finish line when the blasts erupted. German said the two would have been near the blasts if they had run at their normal pace.

"We said, 'Instead of killing ourselves, let's just enjoy it for the experience instead of being hard-core [competitors],' " she said. "It's lucky we did."

German also said social media played a big role during the tragedy. Her 24-year-old daughter, who was at their hotel and dropped out of the race because she had the flu, was able to post a message on Facebook to let family and friends know they were OK. People circulated that post to others.

German, a marketing and communications professional, said she spent Tuesday feeling grateful and watching reports about the attack, which raised more questions.

"I keep saying to myself the 'what if, what if,' " she said. "Then the other question is 'why?' What good does this do? Why, why?"

On Twitter: @ChroniclesofSol

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