From the Finish Line: 'Outside' Gear Guy Bob Parks

Parks points out that most runners would have been expected to finish between 4 and 4.5 hours, or around the time of the explosions

People react to two explosions at the finish line, which sent authorities out on the course to carry off the injured while the stragglers were rerouted away from the smoking site of the blasts.     Photo: AP Photo/The Daily Free Press, Kenshin Okubo

It was my first Boston Marathon, I had just finished, and I was trying to reach my wife. It was chaos—the typical crush at the finish line of any race. This being Boston, we were trying to get through a throng of thousands of people. I had agreed to meet her at Lord and Taylor on Boylston Street, which was basically the worst place you could be. The sidewalk was just packed with spectators

I got to within 25 feet of her, trying to find an opening, but I couldn't bring myself to push through.

All of a sudden, about 150 yards away from me, towards the finish line, there was a giant boom. Like the biggest firework boom on the Fourth of July. It rattled my stomach. Then the air filled with smoke.

It happened at 2:49 p.m. (I know that because I called my wife). It's sickening to think how many people were finishing just at that moment. The first wave started at 10:00 a.m., and most marathoners shoot to finish in that 4-hour slot. There must have been a stream of runners 20-wide coming down to the finish at that point.

There was one explosion, and people went crazy. They started stampeding over one another. A few guys were really authoritative trying to get people to calm down.

I saw the second explosion, and I thought I saw it come out of a building, but it was so big it was hard to tell.

As I drive my family out of Boston, I'm overwhelmed by sadness. It’s so hard to be cynical about the Boston Marathon: At its base there are thousands and thousands of volunteers—so cheery and so friendly. They are such an incredible group of people—cheering on strangers, giving out blankets and water.

I wonder whether the runners who almost made it to the end got services after all hell broke loose. The stations and EMT services were all in disarray. It was kind of scary to see runners walking around without blankets or water and shivering in doorways.

Bob Parks writes Outside's Gear Guy column.

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