Irish runners speak of marathon explosion

Participants just metres away when first explosion took place

The first wave of runners starts the 117th running of the Boston Marathon on Monay. Photograph: Dominick/ Reuters

The first wave of runners starts the 117th running of the Boston Marathon on Monay. Photograph: Dominick/ Reuters


An Irish participant in Monday’s Boston Marathon said he would have been directly in the blast zone if it weren’t for encouragement from a fellow runner.

Royal College of Surgeons student Fintan O’Hara (35) was fading during the last two kilometres of the marathon and estimates he was 50 metres past the finish line when the first explosion took place.

Mr O’Hara was encouraged to keep going by fellow-runner Gerry Carr, who only recognised Mr O’Hara from his Dublin Marathon clothes. Mr O’Hara said if it were not from this support, he would have been very close to the explosion.

“I was fading fast and only for Gerry, I would have been a lot closer. I’m a little bit emotional now. It’s only settling in now,” he said.

“When I first heard the bang, I thought it was fireworks, until I saw the smoke from the building and the glass falling. At one side, there were all these people running and screaming and on the other side, the normal things that happen at the end of a marathon was still going on. It was surreal.”

Mr Carr, who also crossed the finishing line just before the first explosion said: “I was about 100 yards past the finishing line when the first bomb exploded,” he said. “I was just talking to an American I’d been running with and we were congratulating each other and we heard this big bang followed by another one about 30 seconds later.”

The explosions were “very, very loud”, he said. “There were a lot of spectators in the area, a lot of marathon finishers and marathon staff. People began running in every direction, ambulances were coming and all hell seemed to break loose.”

The Irish manager of Usain Bolt revealed how he was just 100 yards away when the bomb exploded. Ricky Simms, from Milford in Co Donegal, was eating lunch with some of the elite athletes who had finished the marathon when the explosion took place.

Mr Simms revealed how the athletes were put into lockdown mode in a hotel for hours after the terror alert for their own safety.

“I was 100 yards away having lunch when we heard the explosion, it was unreal. “I was with the elite athletes and they had all finished so the people who were crossing the line when the bombs went off were there for different reasons.

“We were all moved into a room in the hotel where we had been eating and put under lockdown. The security people and everyone there were just incredible.

“We were kept there and for the next five hours we just watched what was happening a short distance away on TV.

Mr Simms, who was unhurt, was travelling with one of his athletes Micah Kogo who came second in the overall marathon. He flew directly back to his base in London after the race.

Runner Bobby Hilliard, from Clonakilty, Co. Cork was just 500 metres away from the site of the explosion when the first bomb went off. He had crossed the finish line minutes earlier and was walking away when he heard the first blast.

“I was thanking God I was finished…I walked away and got my foil sheet and then boom.

“After the first blast people started to run…mostly Americans – they seemed to be more in tune with what was going on. I didn’t think it was anything dangerous. I thought it was something they set off for Patriot’s Day,” said the married father of two who was getting ready to fly home last night.

 “It would never enter my head that someone would be so malicious to do such damage on such a positive day. We looked back and saw all this smoke and then the second one went off. It didn’t actually dawn on us what had happened.”