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Beaverton runners spared worst of tragedy

Those who didn't make trip or finished early express grief over Mondays events


Ernie Conway doesn’t miss too many opportunities to run.

The chairman of Beaverton’s Planning Commission and Traffic Commission enjoys road running so much, in fact, that he founded the Beaverton Fun Run in 2011 and tirelessly promotes the annual late-summer 5- and 10K.

Despite jumping through the various qualification and financial hoops to register for the Boston Marathon, however, Conway and his wife, Tracy, ultimately decided not to make the trek.

“We signed up last fall and planned to go,” he said on Monday. “But we weren’t sure about travel arrangements. I was hemming and hawing. When we checked on the airfare, which was crazy, we decided we were not going to go.”

Given the tragedy that this year’s marathon turned into — with bomb explosions around 2:45 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time claiming three lives and injuring more than 100 runners and spectators — he admitted feeling rather thankful he stayed home this year.

“I guess in some ways, there was some sort of guiding hand over that,” he said. “All the times I’ve raced and participated in cycling, running, swimming, I’ve come close to some pretty bad accidents, but I’ve always missed those. It’s bittersweet, because you feel like, ‘I’m glad it wasn’t me.’ But you can relate to everything (the victims) are going through.”

About 350 Oregonians were among the more than 27,000 runners who raced in the annual Boston Marathon. Conway was one of 21 registrants who listed Beaverton as their home residence on the event’s official website. All but four, including Conway, had finish times listed, ranging from Jeff Jones’ time of three hours, 14 minutes and seven seconds to Stephanie Lowe’s time of 3:59:28.

So far, there have been no reports of Beaverton-area runners among those injured. Calls to a handful of listed Beaverton runners had not been returned by press time.

Erin Patterson, a spokesman at Nike World Headquarters near Beaverton, confirmed Tuesday that all Nike employees and teams running in Boston have been accounted for.

Counting blessings

Aloha resident Lisa Brennan, a college specialist in the counseling department at Aloha High School and a regular runner, came within 58 seconds of posting a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon at the St. George Marathon in Utah last October. If she had run a 4:10 and gone to Boston, she might have wound up directly in the path of the bombs authorities say were wired to blow just as some of the largest groups of runners completed the race.

“I pulled a ligament in my back during the Utah marathon,” Brennan said Tuesday, “so I wouldn’t have been able to run Boston this year anyway.”

On Monday, one of her daughters stated what was in the back of Brennan’s mind.

“She said, ‘Mom, you probably would have finished right around the time the explosions went off,’” said Brennan.   

Brennan — whose 21-year-old son, John, died of bone cancer in 2002 — has an acute sense of the depth of sorrow family members of Boston’s dead and injured are feeling this week.

“This was just a double whammy, the way people lost limbs due to the explosions,” Brennan said. “Some of the injuries resulted in amputations, which was so hard because I know what John went through.”

Still, Brennan said she would not succumb to intimidation by whoever set off the explosions.

“Monday’s incident won’t be the deciding factor in whether I pursue a Boston qualifying time in a future race,” said Brennan, who will run the Hippie Chick Half Marathon in Hillsboro on May 11. “I don’t like the idea of living in fear, and I don’t want other people to control my joy.”

Too close for comfort

West Linn resident Dave Harkin, owner of Portland Running Co., which has a Beaverton location at 10029 S.W. Nimbus Ave., suite 100, didn’t see the explosions, but certainly heard them.

Harkin and his wife, Paula, were sitting in their room at the Lenox Hotel about 90 minutes after Dave finished running when they heard the first explosion. The building rattled, and it was immediately apparent that something major had happened. They ran to the window just as a second explosion went off right below their room at the intersection of Exeter and Boylston streets.

“Our initial reaction, my wife’s especially, was to immediately get out of the building,” Dave Harkin told Diana Jordan, an anchor with KPAM radio of the Pamplin Media Group, on Monday. “We weren’t actually allowed to do that; we got to the lobby and were turned around. We got back up to the room, and we saw two very major casualties right out in the middle of the intersection where the second explosion happened.”

The scene, Harkin recalled, was “surreal.” People were running away from the blast area while emergency workers rushed in to treat the casualties. As Harkin put it, the scene had turned from “a sense of celebration to a panicked, very high-intensity situation.”

Harkin couldn’t speak to the condition of the two casualties he saw outside the window, other than that “it didn’t look good at all — it looked like they were very seriously injured.”

The Harkins eventually contacted their friends in town for the marathon and determined everyone was OK.

“We had one friend who finished at 3 hours 50 minutes, and I think it was reported that the bombs went off at 4:10, 4:12,” he said. “So that’s as close as anyone would ever want to be to anything like that.”

Amidst the chaos, with scores of people still walking through the streets in all directions, Harkin tried to put the events in perspective.

“We just came and ran and were luckily outside of the rest of it,” Harkin said. “It’s a great tragedy, it’s very devastating.”

Reporters Nancy Townsley and Diana Jordan of KPAM 860 contributed to this news report.

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