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President Barack Obama receives an update on the Boston Marathon explosions in the Oval Office Tuesday from top security officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, left, Attorney General Eric Holder, fourth from right; and FBI Director Robert Mueller, second from right. Official White House photo by Pete Souza

Originally published: 2013-04-16 22:05:18
Last modified: 2013-04-17 09:44:30

Area athletes safe after Boston blasts

by Tom Mayer and Anna Oakes

Local runners say they do not believe anyone from the Boone area was among the 170 people injured and three dead following bomb explosions at the Boston Marathon Monday.

Two bombs detonated near the finish line around 3 p.m. Monday, several hours after the footrace began. An 8-year-old boy is among the three killed, and 17 people are listed as being in critical condition, with several facing amputations, according to media reports.

An Associated Press source said the bombs were created using pressure cookers packed with metal and ball bearings. As of Tuesday afternoon, investigators had not identified suspects in the attack.

Zika Rea, founder of Blowing Rock's ZAP Fitness distance runner training facility, traveled with a group of eight to Boston. One ZAP athlete ran Monday's marathon, and three others competed in a 5K a day earlier.

Rea said she and others had just sat down to eat lunch at the hotel and marathon headquarters at Copley Square.

"We heard and felt the explosions, and ... we kind of knew something wasn't right," said Rea, who was traveling back to the High Country from the Charlotte airport Tuesday. "We watched out the windows, and people were running, pointing, staring."

She said the hotel was immediately placed on lockdown and that those inside were unable to leave until later that night.

The ZAP team was quickly able to send and receive texts to verify that everyone they knew in the area was safe.

Rea said her strongest feeling was one of frustration.

"You feel like an aspect of the sport is being taken away because you know it's going to change," she said. "There's just a freedom of the race that I think is going to be gone. It's just sad to recognize that the events will never be the same."

Gov. Pat McCrory's office said that 450 North Carolinians were registered in the Boston Marathon and that a Charlotte area family was among the injured.

Caleb Masland, a running coach from Boone who ran the marathon, was interviewed by ESPN.

"Runners by their nature, are resilient," Masland told the sports network. "I already feel motivated to do something, to find a way to help. I think the marathon is going to have a different feel next year. And there are going to be some runners who are nervous, but for every person who doesn't want to run, I think two or three will be that much more motivated to take their places and try to make something positive out of this."

Speaking Monday, local runner Ray Russell expressed confidence that no runner from the Boone area was among the people injured. Russell ran the marathon in 2010 and 2011.

"Everybody I know is safe, and I probably know 50 people who are in Boston today. The running community has a lot of camaraderie in it," Russell said.

Russell said he wondered about the timing and location of the blasts, considering that they happened after almost 17,000 of the 23,000 runners had completed the course.

"It's pretty clear to me that whoever did this isn't a runner," Russell said. "The elite runners would have been finished way before these bombs went off. Plus, all of the paramedics and care personnel are (near the finish line) to treat people."

"It just doesn't make any sense," he said.

Following a briefing Tuesday, President Barack Obama said the FBI is investigating the bombings as an act of terrorism.

"It will take time to follow every lead and determine what happened," Obama said. "We will find whoever harmed our citizens, and we will bring them to justice."