Bob Conarroe was three blocks past the finish line in the Boston Marathon when the first bomb went off.
Conarroe is one of about 40 Manitobans registered in to run in yesterday's marathon, which came to an abrupt end when two bombs, 12 seconds apart, exploded at the iconic race's finish line, killing at least three people and injuring 140.
"I heard a bang and I didn’t think anything of it," the 62-year-old marathoner said Tuesday, shortly after flying back from Boston.
The post-marathon checkout was crowded and volunteers were steering hundreds of runners past checkpoints, while the sidewalks were lined with thousands more spectators, Conarroe said.
"There are about three blocks after you finish where you collect your stuff. They give you a blanket, your medal, some food," he said. "They’d just blanketed me, and I heard the bang."
He said he looked over and saw two police officers on the corner, one of whom was listening closely to something at his ear. Then he yelled and Conarroe knew it was something very bad.
"He yelled, ‘Man down!’ and he and the other officer took off running."
"I passed by those bombs"
Conarroe praised the police and volunteers who sprung into action, some moving runners out of the way, others racing back to the finish line, organizing help even as they weaved through runners.
"I talked to some volunteer who were at the finish line," Conarroe said. "They said they saw people with missing limbs and stuff," he said.
The worst moments for him came after he started searching for his two companions, other Manitoba runners he’d travelled with to Boston. Those first minutes were chaos.
"I’d arranged to meet my friends but I couldn’t find them," he said. "There were so many people there," he said.
"I saw a lot of people walking around stunned and we knew something bad had happened. It sounds incredulous now," he said.
He ended up meeting his two friends back at their hotel. They’d finished ahead of him and took the subway back before it was shut down.
Conarroe made most of his way back on foot, walking through the chaotic streets for nearly three miles before he caught a city bus.
In the aftermath, his mortality hit him, he said.
"It’s something to think about. I passed by those bombs and I had a strong finish. If I’d been a bit slower, anything could have happened."
A dedicated marathoner, Conarroe said he’ll keep running.
"I worry about what this will do to what I like to do. Those big marathons will never be the same and that’s a shame," he said.
Conarroe and his two fellow runners caught their flights out of Boston early Tuesday morning. "Everything was on schedule," he said.