UPDATE: Vancouver man went from elation to disgust at Boston Marathon

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter


Updated: April 15, 2013, 9:54 PM



There were 28 Clark County residents who were entered in Monday’s Boston Marathon. They are:

Battle Ground: Chris Neibauer and Karen Neibauer.

Camas: Anita Burkard, Dolly A. Fisher Bales, Daniel L. Lyne and Dan M. Reed.

La Center: Whitney D. Hunter.

Ridgefield: Melissa Bishop, Lynsay McCloy and Stephanee D. Winn.

Vancouver: Nancy Carter, Sharon S. Erickson, Jennifer D. Hadfield, Lance Heppler, Poksil C. Himrich, Tina M. Horn, Niels Kofoed, Wendy Low, Judy Loy, Matthew F. McDonald, Dan W. McElrath, Mansik Min, Ronda Muller, Travis Palena, Micah Rice and Woody Starr.

Washougal: Derek J. O’Quinn and Dana J. Seekins.

Related stories

At least 2 dead in Boston bombing; third bomb reported at JFK library

Security beefed up worldwide after Boston blasts

Obama calls Mass. officials after explosions

One of almost 30 Clark County runners in the Boston Marathon said he went from elation to disgust Monday when two explosions went off near the finish line.

Micah Rice said he wasn’t near the area when the explosions occurred. But several other Clark County marathoners were on the course or around the finish line at the time of the blasts. And earlier, a former Hockinson High distance running star had been among the spectators along the final stretch.

The first explosion happened four hours, nine minutes and 45 seconds into the race.

“I finished in 2:52,” said Rice, The Columbian’s news editor. “So we probably left the area maybe half an hour before it happened.

“I was really happy how I ran, so I went from feeling on cloud nine to feeling sick to my stomach,” Rice said by phone from Arlington, a Boston suburb.

Nearer the blast

A group of Vancouver runners who traveled to Boston together were at different spots along the route when the explosions went off. Poksil Himrich finished in 3:55.49 and was in the post-race area. Her husband, Rick Himrich, who didn’t make the trip to Boston with his wife, said he turned on the TV. When he saw the coverage of the explosion, he also saw the time on the race clock when it happened.

“My God! That’s close to the time she would have finished in,” Himrich realized. “I was about ready to pick up my cell when she called me. She said she was fine, but you can tell she was in a little shock. She was just going to retrieve her things when she heard the blast — actually, two blasts — and she saw the smoke.”

His wife then headed for a nearby bed-and-breakfast where she and her friends were staying.

“She was afraid she’d cordoned off,” Himrich told The Columbian. “She did find a way to get back.”

One of her running companions also had just finished while another was still on the course, Rick Himrich said.

“Judy Loy finished at 4:07.28, and the explosion was at 4:09.45,” Himrich said. “So she did finish. Woody Starr was cut off before he finished.”

Members of the group were concerned when Starr didn’t show up. “He borrowed someone’s cellphone and said he was safe,” Himrich said.

Sarah Crouch, a Hockinson High graduate and now a professional runner, said she and her husband, Michael, had competed in Sunday’s 5-kilometer race. So they were at the marathon as spectators, long enough to watch the top finishers.

She was about 150 meters from the finish line, she said, and her husband was about 400 meters from the finish.

“We were watching until the clock got to about 3:09,” said Crouch, who was known as Sarah Porter in her high school days.

They didn’t know anything had happened until they were at the airport and a running teammate contacted them to see if they were OK.

Even then, Sarah and Mike didn’t understand the question, she said: “We didn’t know what was going on.”

Vancouver runner Lance Heppler notified his friends and family via Facebook.

“I happened to finish 10 minute before the bombs went off,” he wrote. “I was gathering my clothes two blocks away when the mayhem started.”

His wife was buying food, but she “had to ditch the food and run for the hotel. I’m fortunate I finished and relieved that we are both safe.”

Inflicting damage

Micah Rice said he is very familiar with the points along the route where the explosions happened, close to the finish line.

“There are spectators along the whole course, but that’s where there are a lot of people,” Rice said. “If someone wanted to inflict the most damage, that’s where it would happen. This would have affected spectators along the final stretch and runners coming down the stretch.”

The Boston Athletic Association puts on the marathon as part of Patriots’ Day, one of New England’s biggest holidays, marking the start of the Revolutionary War.

According to the association’s website, 28 Clark County runners were entered in this year’s marathon; that does not include local athletes who now live in other parts of the country.

Once he was done running, Rice said, he wouldn’t have been able to linger near the finish even if he’d wanted.

“Because there are so many runners, they shuttle you out of the area pretty quickly,” he said. “As a runner, you don’t get to hang around. You pick up your clothes you may have stashed, and meet with friends and family maybe four or five blocks away from the finish line.

“We didn’t see anything unusual” during his post-race routine, he said. Rice and his wife Stephanie, a Columbian reporter, were about 10 miles away from downtown Boston at the home of a friend when the first explosion was detonated.

“I showered and got cleaned up, and we started making plans to go out and celebrate,” he said. “My friend got an AP news alert on her phone that said there was an explosion and we turned on the TV.

“We don’t see anything in our vicinity out of the ordinary,” Rice said, “other than that cell service is out.”

Later in the day, there were reports that cellular service in Boston was temporarily taken down to prevent people from using cellphones to detonate bombs.

Rice said they were watching television coverage of the explosions, giving him a different perspective on a route he’d run earlier in the day.

“The way the course is designed, you come around a corner onto the final straightaway. The straightaway is about three-tenths of a mile long, along Boylston Street,” he said. “The crowds are seven or eight people deep, real loud and very festive. You can see one of the explosions was near the viewing stands, and where the VIPs are.

“It happened four hours into it; you can see the race clock,” Rice said. “That’s right in the thick of it.”

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com.