5 runners who were near finish line as bombs exploded seek closure

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
Yahoo News
Boston Marathon finish line
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Runners approach the finish line of the Boston Marathon shortly before the first explosion, April 15, 2013. ("5 Runners"/Boston Globe)

BOSTON — Mary Jenkins isn't sure how she's going to feel on marathon day.

"I'll be a basket case, probably," Jenkins, a quality control investigator from central Ohio, said. "Still, I'm looking forward to it. My body is ready, I think. My mind, I'm not so sure."

Jenkins was one of five runners captured in widely seen footage near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon as the first bomb exploded. The group was profiled in "5 Runners," a documentary produced by the Boston Globe — the first the paper has ever produced.

Like most runners in the year since the bombings, Jenkins has experienced a myriad of feelings.

First was sadness about the victims, of course, but also, at times, an indefinable feeling. “I just haven't been the same,” Jenkins says in the film, which debuted on NESN on Monday, a day before the anniversary of the attack.

Then there was pain — mostly emotional, though some physical, too. After the bombing, she was determined to run the Cleveland Marathon, but she suffered a stress fracture.

Jenkins also felt guilt. "I feel guilty I didn't go over and help [the victims]. So many people did," she says in the film. "I'm thinking, 'Why didn't I do that?' I could've done something."

Finally, she felt relief after the Boston Athletic Association accepted her entry (she had to write an essay to gain one of the last 400 spots in the 36,000-runner field).

And soon, she hopes, she will feel some redemption.

"I have to get back to Boston," Jenkins says. "I don't care what I have to do to get back there. There's unfinished business there.”

Last week at a screening for the film, Jenkins said she “even considered being a bandit" to return. Running, she said, is her "natural drug."

Brian Donovan, a local hockey coach featured in the documentary, is on the other end the spectrum of runners: He kind of hates running.

"When I finish a 15-mile training run, I don't go, 'Oh my God, I feel great," Donovan says in the film. "I say, 'God, that sucked!'"

But like Jenkins, Donovan said he has some unfinished business at the Boston Marathon.

"I got screwed out of finishing last year," he says. "I ran 26 miles, and 10 feet before I crossed that finish line, everything changed.”

A recent knee injury, however, forced Donovan to pull out of the 2014 field. Same thing for Howard Mayes, who crossed the finish line the moment the bomb exploded.

"People were screaming," Mayes, a retired teacher from St. Louis, recalls while watching a video he shot himself the end of the 2013 marathon. "There was no way really to determine if there was something necessarily negative going on."

Volker Fischer, who is seen giving a thumbs-up to a camera at the finish line just before the first explosion, agrees.

"I thought a speaker system or something blew up," Fischer, a 61-year-old German-born pharmaceutical executive from Chicago, says.

Fischer is returning to run the marathon, too. So is Demi Clark, a health coach from Fort Mill, S.C., whose husband and two young daughters — Maizie and Willa, then 9 and 6 — were seated in the bleachers across the street from where the first bomb exploded.

“Last time you went, something bad happened,” Maizie says when Clark tells her she’s running again.

“I know,” Clark replies. “But it’ll be very safe this time.”