In eight previous trips, Keith Parks had experienced his share of memorable moments at the Boston Marathon.
Not surprisingly, nothing compares to the events of Monday afternoon for the 52-year-old paramedic from Kelowna.
Parks had already completed the 42.2 km (26.2-mile) run and was back in his hotel room when two bombs detonated near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 170 others.
“I was actually all showered and ready to go when the explosions rocked the hotel,” said Parks, who was staying at the Marriott, a block away from the finish line. “There was a big plume of smoke and people were running up the street in panic mode.
“I knew it was a bomb,” Parks added. “As a paramedic, we’re trained in that area, so I knew what it was and it was a terrible feeling. I was with two of my friends and said ‘this is bad, we gotta leave here.'”
Parks had just come off one of his more satisfying efforts at the Boston Marathon posting a time of three hours 29 minutes eight seconds.
He was one of nine people from the Central Okanagan who completed the race, none of whom were physically harmed by the blasts.
In the confusion and aftermath of the explosions, Parks said he was fraught with concern for the safety of other runners he knew from the Okanagan, while also trying to get word to his family back in Kelowna that he was safe and sound.
“Right up to that point, the weekend seemed perfect,” said Parks. “I needed a good time, I was using Boston to train for Vancouver in three weeks and I was really pleased. Then to have that happen, just sort of changes everything. It’s already changed how I think.
“Running is just a pure thing,” he added, “and to see how a split second can change everything, can change a life, is just overwhelming. My heart goes out to those people and families who have been hurt by this.”
Still, Parks assures nothing will keep him from returning next year for his 10th appearance at the world’s most prestigious marathon.
“It’s terrible, there are no words to describe it. But it won’t deter my dreams and goals, I’ll be back next year.”
Like Parks, Pat and Corrine Gable are also leaning towards a return trip in 2013 to compete in the Boston Martathon.
Initially, the Kelowna couple had planned on moving onto a new challenge next year, but the tragic events of Monday may convince them to re-think their options.
“This was going to be our last (Boston Marathon),” said Pat Gable, who has run in five Boston Marathons, while Corrine has run in four. “But now, Corrine and I will probably be back. This community puts everything into this event, their absolute heart and soul goes into this and we feel that should be honoured. We don’t want to bow to the intentions of bad people in the world. We need to continue on with our lives.”
The Gables, who ran together Monday, finished the run in just under four hours. Due to both of them having medical issues, Pat said the two intended on running considerably slower.
However, the Gables settled into a comfortable pace and came across the finish line about 25 minutes earlier than expected—and just 27 minutes before the explosions struck.
“We were in the pickup area, about 500 metres away when both explosions went off,” said Pat Gable. “There was this immense cannon burst, followed by smoke. It was 27 minutes after we had come across the line. A 4:25 time would have put us right there at that time. As Corinne said, somebody must have been looking after us.”
The events of Monday overshadowed a number of memorable performances by Okanagan athletes. In addition to Parks, Kelowna’s Cindy Rhodes, 56, finished an impressive eighth in the women’s 55 to 59 division and 4,831st overall in three hours 15 minutes 32 seconds.
Liz Borrett, the oldest Kelowna competitor at 74, was second in the women’s 70 to 74 age division in 4:00:34. Peachland’s Ryan Onyschuk had the fattest time of all local runners at 3:00:18.
The results for all local runners were: Ryan Onyschuk (3:00:18), Cindy Rhodes (3:15:32), Liza Burgess (3:21:45), Keith Parks (3:29:08), Myung Randall (3:39:04), Laurelee Nelson (3:42:32), Pat Gable (3:59:299, Corrine Gable (3:59:30) and Liz Borrett (4:00:34).