Don Cleveland finished his second Boston Marathon in 3:53 and was just being shuttled through all the post-race stations to pick up his medal, a Mylar blanket, snacks and water.
He was at his final stop to pick up his belongings he left at the start of the race when he heard an explosion.
“I looked behind me and saw a big cloud of smoke, then there was another explosion,” said Cleveland, 61, a West Point attorney and seasoned marathon runner.
The explosion happened at the 4:09 mark, mere seconds after Cleveland finished.
“My time was improved from last year,” he said. “If I’d been any slower I may have been more than just an ‘ear-witness.’”
Volunteers kept the finished racers moving to a nearby park, where Cleveland still was an hour after the explosion.
He said he’d been hearing sirens for the last hour.
“I would guess probably that most of the injuries are spectators,” he said. “There was nothing in the actual path of the race.”
Cleveland said he’d heard reported that at least one subway line is closed. However, most of the people in the park not directly involved in the marathon were enjoying a spring afternoon in Boston.
“There are people out enjoying Patriot Day,” he said, which is a holiday in Boston. “There are people playing Frisbee and riding the carousel they have here and just enjoying their day.”
Cleveland has participated in more than 60 marathons, including two in Boston. He’s already qualified for the race next year and plans to come back to the city.
“It’s a nice city to visit,” he said. “People really go out of their way with hospitality. Up until the explosion, not one volunteer was frowning. Boston brought textiles to our region of the country and I think they brought their hospitality, too. That’s what makes this so sad.”