Joco Sports

April 15, 2014

These area runners returning to Boston Marathon for special reasons

Johnson County runners will be among the throngs returning to compete in this year’s Boston Marathon to pay tribute and support victims.

This time of the year brings back a lot of memories for Johnson County area runners who participated in the 2013 Boston Marathon.

It was the race on April 15, 2013, that saw two bombs explode near the finish line, killing three people and severely injuring a number of others.

The memories of that day, though, aren’t going to prevent more that a dozen area residents from running the 26-mile, 385-yard 2014 Boston Marathon next Monday.

Leawood’s Andy Orbals has vivid memories of 2013.

“The start to the finish was very normal for me except that I did get very nauseous around mile 20,” he said. “After the finish, I usually take my time, recover a bit and talk to other runners.

“But this time I got out of the finish area as fast as I could and got back to my hotel, which is about a mile walk. I am not sure if it was just the nausea or some other subconscious force going on, but getting out of there saved me from getting caught up in the chaos.”

And Orbals still thinks about his experience.

“I still to this day get a very weird feeling that when I was finishing, which was about 30 to 40 minutes before the blasts, that the bombers were walking around in the crowd getting ready to strike.”

Orbals will be running on Monday in his ninth consecutive Boston Marathon.

“Going back this year will be very special to support all the victims and to pay tribute to the lost lives,” he said.

Overland Park’s Greg Hall wants to remember not the cowardly bombing but the courage, compassion and caring displayed by so many strangers.

“The Boston Police, rescue and medical teams quickly went from a holiday atmosphere to a crime scene,” he said. “The people of Boston opened their arms to us runners who were left wandering downtown Boston amidst the chaos and confusion.

“I will remember not the evil of that day, but the many heroes who stepped up to help.”

Hall will be back to run this year.

“I’ll be 60 this year and don’t have many Bostons left in me,” he said. “I plan on running the entire race with a smile on my face.”

Melissa Brancato has many memories of last year, too.

“I will never forget the feeling I had making the final turn knowing I had just PR’d (personal record) by 13 minutes,” the Overland Park resident said. “I waited for my twin (Ashley Degen), and we walked back to the hotel with smiles on our faces because Boston is amazing.

“Shortly after getting back to the hotel, we heard the news of the explosions at the finish line. At that point, the smiles and excitement turned into shock, disbelief and panic.”

Brancato also will be running on Monday.

“I’m running this year’s marathon as a celebration,” she said. “I think this year will be epic in Boston.”

The 2013 Boston Marathon was the first for Prairie Star Middle School assistant principal Stacey Sperry.

“I will never forget turning the corner and seeing thousands of people cheering for you,” she said. “It was an emotional high that was to be replaced with fear as 30 minutes later we heard the boom that we quickly learned were the bombs.”

The Olathe resident will be running on Monday.

“I am running because I believe in the good of all people and to support the running community,” she said.

There will be increased security this year.

“My hope is that this added security does nothing to dampen the excitement of the day,” Hall said. “I have a feeling it will not. This is going to be one heckuva party.”

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