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Troutdale marathon runner believes angels were on familys side in Boston

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Mark and Jill Dorrough returned from Boston Sunday, April 21, grateful to be home with their children. From left are Aubrey, 17, Noah, 11 (seated on floor), Zachary, 6, Jill, Joel, 13, Dorrough and Jacob, 16. Oldest son Abram, 19, is away at college.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, Mark Dorrough and his family struggled to find solace in mayhem.

But sometimes, perspective comes from an unexpected source.

“There was a building across the river that night that was lit up in red, white and blue, like the flag,” said Dorrough’s 13-year old son, Joel. “It reminded me that we all faced pain that day, but we would unite and find hope to feel better.”

Dorrough, 44, is an intense marathon runner. He admits to running off and on for several years before seriously ramping up a stringent routine for marathon training five years ago. He qualified for the Boston event two years ago and traveled back to Boston on Thursday, April 11, to take his place at the starting line of the world’s premier marathon race. In tow were his wife, Jill, and two of their seven children, Aubrey, 17, and Joel.

Though shaken by their experience and still asking “Why?” Dorrough and his family returned home Sunday, April 21, with a deep appreciation of human nature and a profound sense of gratitude to the angels that kept them from harm’s way.

Dorrough, a Troutdale dentist, refers to the grueling 26.2-mile Boston course as the “Super Bowl” of marathon races. In search of a “sub-three-hour” personal best (completing a marathon in under three hours), Dorrough was looking forward to running with his brother Stephen from Hartford, Conn.

By 6 a.m. on race day, more than 26,000 athletes had arrived by school buses at the race’s starting point, 30 miles outside Boston in Hopkinton. They milled around on the grounds of two schools, performing their pre-race stretching and mentally preparing for what was before them.

The only thing out of the ordinary, Dorrough said, was the unusually large presence of police dogs.

“I assumed they were bomb-sniffing dogs because they weren’t companion dogs or guide dogs,” Dorrough said. “They kept repeating an announcement over the loud speakers to not touch or talk to the dogs because it would disturb the training exercise they were doing. We knew about training exercises from TV and the movies, but that was no training exercise. There’s always security during the race, but this was a different level of security. It wasn’t until after the event was over that I put things together and wondered if there were hints that something was going down before the race began.”

Much farther down the course, on Boylston Street, Jill, her sister-in-law and their five children found prime viewing spots to watch as runners made their final stretch toward the finish line. They spent the entire day directly across the street from The Forum Restaurant, which by 3 p.m. would be rubble from the second bomb.

Aubrey people-watched as spectators shuffled up and down the sidewalks. A young boy, later identified as 8-year-old Martin Richard, caught her eye as he held a handmade sign calling for people to stop hurting each other.

“I’d been watching him and remember thinking, ‘Oh, no, he dropped his sign,’ when it fell into the barricade and he couldn’t reach it,” Aubrey said. “Then we found out he was the little boy who died.”

Waves of runners and security

Marathon runners are divided into three classes based on their qualifying times — elite, or world class runners; non-elites; and “the masses.” Dorrough and his brother, though both had decent qualifying times, were among “the masses” or third wave to take to the course. By early afternoon, word began to spread among the spectators that the elite runners were approaching the final leg of the marathon.

“It’s normal to see cops walk along the street when the elite and non-elite runners come through the finish line,” Jill said. “They’re there to keep people from jumping the barricades and getting near the runners. But all of a sudden, all these cops came out and stood along the street about 10 feet apart. There must have been about 50 of them. I didn’t think much about it at the time, in this day and age. But then I noticed the back of some of their jackets said, ‘Special Ops.’ I thought, this is weird; this is not normal. It seemed like overkill to protect the runners.”

Dorrough crossed the finish line at 1:15 p.m. His brother Stephen completed the course around 2:40 p.m. Dorrough had reunited with his family and his brother’s family less than two blocks from the finish line when the first bomb went off at 2:50 p.m. The group had no clue if Stephen was still on the course.

“He was a little disoriented when we caught up with him near the (family meeting area) after the bombs had gone off,” Dorrough said. “Running that long depletes all the sugar in your system, so not really knowing what’s going on isn’t unusual. But we had heard the blasts, so it surprised me when the first words out of his mouth were, ‘How was your race?’” by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Dorrough broke the runners tradition of wearing the Boston Marathons trademark jacket after the event, out of respect for those killed and injured in the bombings.

By Tuesday, April 16, as details about the bombings began to emerge, Stephen Dorrough learned of the FBI’s requests for race photos from the public. He had returned home to Hartford and contacted a bureau office to offer the photos his wife had taken to the agency. Mark Dorrough, Jill and their children left Boston Tuesday morning as well, headed to New York City for a pre-planned vacation. They met up with two Secret Service agents and one from the FBI at a Manhattan drug store, where they transferred the photos Jill had taken to a portable drive for investigators.

“I was worried they would take my camera card and we would lose everything forever,” Dorrough said. “I have a friend here at home who is with the Secret Service, and I asked him to call them for me, thinking they might be kinder about letting me keep the camera card. They were very polite about it, but did tell me not to delete anything off the card. I’ve got all the pictures on my computer, and I put the card in storage.”

Now home, and back at work and school, Mark, Jill and their teenagers are still trying to come to terms with what happened. Dorrough credits three moments in time during the day when he is convinced a higher power interceded on his and his family’s behalf.

“If I had run a little faster, we would have been waiting for Stephen at the finish line when the first bomb exploded,” Dorrough said. “If Stephen had run a little slower, he would have been on the street right at the time of the blasts. And if my niece hadn’t had to use the bathroom, Jill and the kids would have been right across the street from the second bomb. I have no doubt God was with us that day. It was a miracle.”

Jill expressed relief when the last suspect was apprehended outside Boston Friday night, and still wonders if the marathon bombings are “the tip of the iceberg” for future attacks. But on a boat cruise in New York Harbor a few days after the bombings, she was comforted by the fortitude displayed by people during an unimaginable time.

“I always get teary when I see the Statue of Liberty because of what it stands for,” Jill said. “We saw the statue, the flag was at half-staff on (Liberty Island) and the boat started playing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ It was so powerful because I realized the worst in humanity brought out the best in humanity that day.”

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