Local runner safe after Boston attacks

Published 9:21 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Atmore resident Mark Rice has run and finished the Boston Marathon a total of five times – including Monday’s race where he escaped the devastation of an apparent terrorist attack by a window of only hours.

As Boston area police, firefighters and medical personnel worked to bring order to the chaos following two explosions near the marathon’s finish line, Rice was sending text messages home to Atmore.

“I’m okay,” Rice wrote in a text message to The Advance sent from Boston just after 3 p.m. “Other than being sick that some are hurt,” he continued. “I’m now checking on friends.”

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Only moments prior to Rice’s text, officials with the Boston Marathon reported the blasts to be the product of bombs – a determination later confirmed by law enforcement.

Rice, the administrator of Atmore Vision Center, finished the race in 3 hours, 12 minutes and 24 seconds – a personal best for him by three minutes and an early enough finish to find him far out of the danger zone when the blasts took place a few hours later.

“We were gone by the time it happened,” Rice said. “It takes a long time in the post-run area to get your medal and snacks and things, so we got in the car and we were gone probably a few miles when we got a call from my brother asking if we had heard about the blast, and we had not.”

Although Rice said he was completely our of harms way, his attention quickly turned to friends he knew were still somewhere along the marathon’s 26.2-mile route.

“There were a lot of friends that were still there,” he said. “Fortunately, they are all okay. One got some ear damage, so he wasn’t able fly back home right away because it might damage his hearing.”

Although he avoided bodily harm, Rice said Monday’s attack was devastating on several levels.

“We were lucky. We’re certainly counting our blessing. It just was horrible that someone stole what would have been such a good day.”

Rice, a veteran runner, said the loss of life and multiple injuries are certainly a tragedy, but added that even those not injured suffered because of the act of terrorism.

“This is our moment and they stole that from us,” he said. “I don’t, in any way, mean to detract from those who were actually injured, but the damage is far beyond that and a well-deserved moment was stolen form all 27,0000 runners.”

As has been the case following past terrorist attacks, the investigation into Monday’s bombing is likely to be long and involved, but Rice said the act itself should not deter either runners interested in future marathons, or citizens in general.

“This is not the kind of thing to avoid, because it happened at a race,” Rice said. “We have to remember this is the risk we take going anywhere. We should not change our life because of the emotion of this. That’s what they want us to do.”

As for himself, Rice plans to enter his sixth Boston Marathon next spring.

“Absolutely,” he answered in response to whether or not he would compete again in the world-famous race. “I am already qualified for 2014 and if I could register today, I would.”