Carmel Marathon director, friend witness Boston blasts

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BOSTON, Mass. – Two Central Indiana men were among those who finished the Boston Marathon just prior to the deadly explosions Monday afternoon.

Todd Oliver, the race director for the Carmel Marathon, finished just minutes before the explosions.

“People that were finishing (during the blast) I probably passed,” said Oliver, who told Fox 59 he qualified to run near the front, but elected to start with the last wave of runners to be closer to friends. “I probably passed 100 percent of those people that were at the line. You know it kind of makes you wonder a little bit.”

Oliver says he was confused when he heard the explosions.

“I was sitting on the ground about three blocks away, just finished about 15 minutes before, and I heard the two booms,” Oliver said. “They were three blocks away so you couldn’t see them, but they reverberated through the streets and I said to the volunteer, I said, ‘What was that?’ She’s like, ‘I don’t know what that is.'”

Kurt Eckert, a runner from Beech Grove, shared Oliver’s confusion. Eckert finished just seven minutes before the blasts and estimates he was just 200 yards away.

“You know, I heard a bang, but as I kind of referred to it, it sounded like the cannon explosion at an IU football game, and I didn’t think too much about it. I kind of thought, well maybe it was a celebration for a four-hour marathoner,” Eckert said. “Then I saw a puff of smoke that, you know, grew a little higher in the sky, and I was like, ‘Oh that didn’t feel right.’ A couple seconds later I heard another one and I was like, ‘Wow. This is kind of weird.’ We started to walk away from the scene and back to the hotel and that’s when I realized that something serious was happening because we were getting run off the road by emergency vehicles and everyone was in a panic, a state of panic.”

“It’s kind of like a movie,” Oliver said. “I guess just the whole string of events from seeing people’s faces to watching the overall scene play out.”

Oliver and Eckert were staying at the Westin Hotel, which quickly became command central for investigators. The hotel was also on lockdown for much of the day.

“The only way I got out was I hitched a ride to the airport with a European flight crew that needed to get out,” Oliver said. “They let us walk out of the hotel, down the street and around the corner four blocks, that’s how far out they had it blocked off. Then we got in this van and took backstreets to the airport, came into the airport and there were armed guards walking around the airport with fingers on triggers everywhere you looked.”

Oliver was in a hurry to leave because of his role as race director for the Carmel Marathon, which is scheduled for this Saturday, April 20.

Despite tragedy in Boston, Oliver said a pilot reminded him why continuing with the Carmel race is important.

“(The pilot) is like, ‘You should just go on as planned. There should be no hiccups because if that’s what it was, a terrorist attack, that’s what they want. They want you to be scared. You just can’t act that way,’” Oliver said. “I thought, ‘You know what? That’s right.”