Vivian Rachlis would have been at the finish line Monday about the time the first explosion came -- if she'd finished in her ideal time.
"My GPS says 25.8 (miles). I'm guessing I missed the explosion by five minutes," Rachlis said Monday night. "If I'd had the race I wanted, I would have been in the finish line area."
But Rachlis was a little off her pace -- by just a few hundred metres. It was enough.
By Monday evening, most of the 35 Manitobans who began the Boston Marathon were accounted for as safe and a bunch of them were with Rachlis. People who had trained for years, people in their 40s and 50s and 60s who know the joy of running for hours, people who had travelled to Boston from Manitoba for the special day of celebrating with thousands of fellow runners and 500,000 spectators -- a day suddenly turned to horror.
"We're all sitting here in a bar and just hugging each other," Rachlis said.
The runners included Manitoba marathoners such as Jake Fehr, Kevin Donnelly, Tim Turner, Mike McGovern and Rachlis's partner, David Cormie.
Some finished the race, some saw the race instantly abandoned, a few came perilously close -- to what, they'll thankfully never know.
"I crossed the finish line about half an hour before the explosion," said Cormie, who didn't know for another hour after the blasts that Rachlis was safe.
"I didn't have any news for a while -- I was getting worried."
Bob Steinberg had an even closer call -- three blocks away from the first blast, two blocks from the second explosion a few heartbeats later.
The marathon is 26 miles, 385 yards, or 42 kilometres, 195 metres, a staggering distance for a human being to run. Metric or imperial, Steinberg was close to the finish line.
"The sign I passed said 0.2 miles to the finish line," he said. "It's just about now starting to sink in... people screaming, ambulances.
"Somebody said manhole covers (blew). Someone said trash bins. I smelled nasty, acrid smoke. If I'd been close enough to see, I wouldn't be talking to you."
Steinberg and other runners were hustled off the course and into an indoor mall, where, miraculously, he spotted his wife, Julie Gold Steinberg, searching for him. She'd been waiting for him near the finish line.
"She was running frantically through the mall and I saw her," Steinberg said.
"It's incredible," said Steinberg. "It's cordoned off. There's police everywhere -- there's a guy with an automatic weapon."
Rachlis said runners suddenly halted on the course. "Word went down the line that we had to stop immediately because there was an explosion at the finish line," she said. "I just had a fantastic group of women around me who were very supportive.
"Someone had a sweater and we took turns wearing it for two minutes because we were getting hypothermia. People were sharing cellphones, but there was just no service," said Rachlis.
Peter Pazerniuk was in the middle of a post-marathon recovery massage when he heard the explosions a few hundred metres away.
He quickly phoned his wife, children and elderly parents in Winnipeg to confirm he was safe.
"He was quite upset. He said they were hustled away from the area pretty quickly. For all of us it was quite a shock," his father, Gordon Pazerniuk, told the Free Press in a telephone interview. "We were very relieved to hear he was OK."
Pazerniuk was on the massage table just about the same time as brothers-in-law Justin Mangin of Bruxelles and Gerald Boulet of Lorette, along with Marcel Sorin of Lorette, were cooling down in the recovery area and getting a rubdown.
The massage and recovery area was inside a building two blocks north and two blocks east of the finish line. Unlike Pazerniuk, none of them heard anything until an official ran in and told everyone to leave the area.
"Everything was chaotic, sirens everywhere," said Sorin.
"There were a lot of fire trucks and police cars," said Mangin.
Amazingly, the subway hadn't yet been shut down and they caught a train to their hotel. "It sure puts a pit in your stomach," Mangin said.
They couldn't get word out until they reached their hotel and used a land line in their room.
"I was glad to hear his voice," his wife Michelle Sorin said from Lorette.
Andrew Gabel had been stuck in a classroom writing a university exam, wondering how his father, Randy Gabel, had done in the Boston Marathon.
Just after he left the exam room, a text message showed up that made the Winnipeg man's heart skip a beat.
"There was an explosion. I'm OK," said the text from his father.
After running 42.2 kilometres, David Watt and his friends faced a long walk back to Boston University and their lodging. "We were given water on the way to BU by a couple who realized people on the course were in need and came to do what they could," Watt said.
Marlis Jabs and her husband, Gordon Dalling, both ran in the marathon this year, crossing the finish line 45 minutes before the bombs went off, her relieved father, Edmond Jabs, said from his Winnipeg home.
University of Manitoba classics professor Mark Lawall was fetching his warmup clothing after the race, running slower than he'd hoped, when the bangs came in quick succession and suddenly the world was filled with fire trucks, police cruisers and unmarked SUVs.
"So, as you can imagine, it's a strange -- of course horrible -- situation... Here I am lamenting a race gone wrong for me as a runner, but mixed into that is the glimmer of happiness that I did finally run this race after trying to do so for so long... And then that's all overshadowed by the worst side of human nature," Lawall wrote in an email to the Free Press.