Wilkes-Barre native Kelly Leighton needed two words to sum up Boston’s mood during the 2014 marathon Monday: “United. Definitely.”
“The atmosphere was totally like nothing I’ve experienced before,” said Leighton, 28, who was disappointed with her performance but honored to participate in the race that was marred by a bombing near the finish line last year.
Leighton ran alongside about 36,000 athletes in the 2014 Boston Marathon and was one of a small contingent of runners hailing from Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Veteran runner Bornfase Omurwa, 30, of Kingston, said he noticed security was extremely tight, and bags were not allowed near the course. Though the measure ensured a safer area, Omurwa said the distance it placed between runners and a fresh change of clothes proved inconvenient.
But it did not hinder his performance. Monday’s race brought him a new personal best by running the 26.2 miles in just under three hours, clocking a gun-time of 2:47:05.
“I’ve never seen a marathon with so much cheering from start to finish,” he said. “You don’t want to stop.”
Omurwa also ran in the 2013 Boston Marathon, and said he had set off for home less than 10 minutes before bombs exploded near the finish line.
Patricia Buzinkai, also of Kingston, also ran in last year’s marathon.
She and her husband had been driving for about 40 minutes and were just outside of Boston in 2013 when they both received a flurry of worried phone calls and text messages asking if they’d been caught in the chaos, she said, effectively informing them of the bombing.
They spent much of the ride home, she said, ears tuned to the radio.
While she believed the added security this year was necessary, Buzinkai said it was disruptive to some families looking to show support for loved ones. Security checkpoints, she said, made finding good spots to catch a glimpse of her a challenge for her husband.
But Buzinkai said the resolve of local Bostonians to turn out for their city’s race was unbroken.
“They were ready. They were excited,” she said. “You couldn’t look anywhere without seeing ‘Boston Strong.’”
Buzinkai, 38, finished the race in just under four hours, in a time, she said, that was about a half hour longer than usual. She added, however, that she was racing injured.
A physician assistant, Buzinkai described her injury in official medical terminology before offering a layman-friendly translation.
“Heel pain, basically,” she said, laughing. “My injury was bothering me, but I’m glad I finished.”
Despite heightened security, Omurwa said his wife and son were able to see him as he passed the eight-mile mark.
Ultimately, all three runners agreed the sense of community is what sets Boston apart from other marathons.
Buzinkai described the crowd support as “extraordinary.”
“People are cheering you on before you’re even running,” she said.
“Everyone was so supportive of each other. The crowd support here was insane,” she said.
And it’s to the atmosphere of extraordinary insanity that Omurwa credited his performance.
“I felt the energy all the way up to the end,” he said. “It kept me going.”
Buzinkai and Omurwa said they plan to run in Boston again in 2015. As for Leighton, this year was her first Boston Marathon, and she said she is still on the fence for next year.
“I don’t know,” Leighton, daughter of Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton, said. “It’s a tough course.”