Jacksonville runners return after Boston explosions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Some local runners who participated in the Boston Marathon on Monday arrived at Jacksonville International Airport a day later with heavy hearts for the victims of the explosions.

"It's sad that there are people out there that would do this," runner Paul Smith said. "None of us could understand a reason for this one."

Smith and his daughter, Stacey, were a few miles away from the finish line when they heard the loud boom.

"We were four miles back. We heard what sounded like fireworks, but we had no idea," Smith said. "Officials held up a sign that said, 'Race stopped.' After that, someone said their had been an explosion. We didn't know what kind."

It was a deadly one in which three were killed and nearly 200 were injured, including Smith's son-in-law, Richard, who he says was waiting for them at the finish line.

"It blew off one of his shoes, knocked him down, has some damage on a few toes," Smith said. "This morning he has a pretty big a pain in the right side of his ear."

Even in the midst of the chaos, Smith said marathon officials made sure he and the other runners who couldn't finish were safe.

"While we were all stopped, there must of have been 4,000 or 5,000 runners waiting," he said. "It was getting cold. They brought blankets, wraps, food and even gave us cellphones to call our loved ones. We knew we would be on national TV by that time."

The runners are now back home safely and hoping for justice.

"I want to see someone punished for their bad acts," runner Dan Adams said. "Who does this? Who hurts innocent people? I'd like them found and held accountable."

"We'll just keep praying for everyone, and we just want Boston to come back and we want to do it again," runner Skye Johnson said.

This was Johnson's first Boston Marathon, and she said she doesn't feel like celebrating.

"It's tough because we are safe and there are so many people that aren't, so many affected by it," she said. "It's weird being back. I'm just thankful to be safe."

Johnson's friend, Beth DeArment, wasn't able to finish her second Boston Marathon.

"We heard the explosions go off," DeArment said. "The girl running next to me asked me if they were doing revolutionary war re-enactments. She was like, 'Are those canons?'"

It's a tragedy the runners say will change marathon racing forever.

"I love the Boston Marathon," Adams said. "Obviously I will go back, but I believe it's an innocence lost, and the memory will always be there."

"I guess I know the definition of scary. That was it. You couldn't use your cell pohne. Couldn't get hold of my husband, people were going all over the place, didn't know if there was going to be another one... which was the scariest part ," said Boston Marathon runner, Lisa Thomas.

Thomas told Channel 4 Tuesday night that she was just 100 feet away from the explosion during the Boston Marathon Monday.

"Nobody knew what was going on. We were just standing there, we didn't know what to do. Just kind of frozen. Then the police directed the runners to just run which was hard when you've just finished a marathon ," said Thomas.

Thomas and her friends all were able to escape injury, but Thomas is one of many runners like, Paul McRae who are returning home to Jacksonville with tales to tell of the destruction in Boston.

"Never could doubt someone could do something like this but it's sad. It means marathons, big marathons are going to be changed ," said McRae.

McRae wasn't there for the explosion Monday, he had already finished the race and was stunned when he found out the finish line he had just crossed had turned into a disaster scene.

"Literally about an hour later, 30 minutes people were starting to text my phone, I thought it was terrible joke at first and I turned on local news and that's when I obviously realized it wasn't a hoax," said McRae.

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