Local residents recount Boston Marathon scene

Area residents who attended the Boston Marathon on Monday were expecting to enjoy the end of the day after participating in or watching the marathon.

Instead, they found themselves near the center of a national tragedy. Three people were killed and about 150 injured in two bomb explosions near the finish line.

“I was stopped a half-mile from the finish line,” said John Valovic, a Gloversville High School in-school suspension monitor and track team coach. “I never actually finished.”

He said he was running past Fenway Park when he came to an underpass and the race came to a halt.

“We all got herded into a big pack and none of us knew why,” Valovic said.

“I didn’t hear the explosions, but I heard people talking about them,” Valovic said. “I didn’t know what happened, but I was 24 miles into the race and I was just trying to finish.”

Valovic said the long marathon was wearing on his body toward the end, so he walked for a portion of the race. That decision may have saved him from being near the explosions, he said.

“I walked for a mile or so during the race because I was in pain,” Valovic said. “I think if I hadn’t walked, I would have been near the finish line when the explosions happened.”

Valovic said the day went from an accomplishment to a tragedy.

“Today’s been a hard day. It’s been from one end of the spectrum to the other,” Valovic said.

On Monday night, he was at a Hilton hotel two blocks away from the finish line and still needed to get his belongings from a hotel that was locked down because it was near the explosions.

“I still have my race clothes on,” Valovic said Monday night. “I’m tired, sore, cold and hungry, and I just want to get my stuff and go home.”

Valovic said he attended his second marathon as a way to raise money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. He said his father has stomach cancer. Valovic said he was able raise about $5,700 for cancer research.

Although the race was cut short for him, Valovic was thankful his friends and family were safe.

“Everybody that came with me is safe,” Valovic said. “I had just passed my family and I knew my friends were somewhere near the finish line. I couldn’t find them for a while, so it was scary.”

Some of Valovic’s friends near the finish line were town of Johnstown resident Matt Sherman and Gloversville Recreation Commission member Jared Hammond. They were a block from where the explosions occurred.

“We heard the explosions and we could feel them, but we didn’t actually see them,” Hammond said. “Our initial reaction wasn’t, ‘Oh that must have been an explosion.’ We thought it could have been anything, but it sounded pretty big.”

“It sounded like a big truck crashed into something, but it wasn’t enough to alarm you,” Sherman said. “With it being a big city, none of us expected it to be out of the ordinary or a bomb.”

Shortly after, he said, the police began to take control of the situation, but no official announcement was made to inform the spectators along the final stretch.

“The most difficult part was not knowing what was actually going on,” Hammond said.

Shirley Hudynicia of Fort Plain said her husband and son were running in the marathon. Her husband, Rob, was running the marathon for the ninth year while her son Ryan was participating in the event for the third time.

“I talked to them a little while ago, and they’re both fine,” Shirley Hudynicia said Monday afternoon. “They just weren’t able to get out of Boston today because it’s locked down.”

Larry Poitras of Johnstown was running his fourth Boston Marathon on Monday and was still in shock over what happened.

“It was just a total surprise,” Poitras said. “They’ve been doing this race for 117 years, and to have something like this happen is totally unbelievable.”

“My family and I are fortunate to be OK,” Poitras added.

Some of the local residents who were in Boston said the most difficult part was trying to contact loved ones and make sure everyone was OK.

“My phone was going off like mad,” Poitras said. “It was very nerve-wracking not to be able to get a hold of anyone because they shut cellphone service down.”

Hammond and Sherman said they were depending on social media to get updates about what happened.

“We were using Twitter to get what little information we could,” Sherman said.

“My biggest concern is this attention is going to be a glorification for the person that did this by seeing it all over the media,” Sherman said. “That day should be about the runners and not about this horrible thing.”

Sports editor Paul Wager contributed to this report.