Brian Collins almost didn’t run his 34th consecutive Boston Marathon on Monday morning.
The 57-year-old Canterbury, N.H., resident had what he described as a “very tough year.” He overcame surgery on his right Achilles’ heel and was able to start running again last December. Monday was supposed to be his redemption race.
Collins started his race at 10:30 a.m. ET and finished in 3 hours, 31 minutes. He estimates he heard the explosions near the finish line about 20 minutes after he finished the race.
Experience helped Collins on Monday. He’s raced the marathon so many times that he already planned a meeting place with his wife, Diane, and 26-year-old son, Brendan.
“My son met me at the finish line and we heard the explosions,” Collins said. “Then again, we never thought that’s what we were listening to.
“I had just turned the corner of Boylston Street when I heard the explosion,” Collins said. “We knew there was a problem because the air was filled with sirens. We saw police running and on golf carts. I thought maybe it was a construction accident. And then you heard the second one, and this became, ‘Oh my goodness, this is weird.’ That’s how quickly the feeling went from really happy, then worried.”
Collins added that he didn’t know the booms came from the marathon route.
“The ground did shake,” he said.
Fatigued from the run, with the help of his son, he was able meet Diane and get in the car and head 80 miles north to their home in New Hampshire.
It was a wild emotional turn of events for Collins, who went from relishing a great personal achievement to guilt and fear.
Later, he added: “You go from feeling personal satisfaction to suddenly it’s not about me at all.”
He spent the car ride home fielding phone calls from friends and coworkers while he and Diane listened to news radio to keep up on the tragic events that had just occurred.
Once home, he spent time watching the news, reflecting, and also taking a call from a local reporter. He was happy to find out from the reporter that other runners from the area were safe.
He even found a photo online of his high school coach, Tom Meagher, helping an injured person on the street. For him, the photo only proved what he already knew about the running community: it’s a small, but tight-knit one.
“This is always the goal, especially for people in New England, so it strikes home,” he said. “It may sound strange, but I would have thought what would have happened if I weren’t there because I would have worried.”