Last American woman to win Boston Marathon wonders what future holds after attack

April 15, 2013
photo - Boston Marathon runner Russell Clifford walks past SWAT officers near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday.  Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Boston Marathon runner Russell Clifford walks past SWAT officers near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday. Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 

News of the Boston Marathon attack left Colorado Springs coach Lisa Rainsberger wondering what the future holds for her young runners.

“It was such an awkward feeling spending time with them at practice and knowing that such a thing could happen,” the last American woman to win the race (1985) said Monday afternoon. “It’s sickening. This race has been part of my life for the past 28 years. It is a big part of my life and the life of my family.”

The effect of the attack, which killed at least three and wounded over 140 more, will be felt for years, Rainsberger said.

“How do the New York or Chicago marathons move forward without that fear?” she asked. “Every race has to be concerned. I know the race director and some of the board and I can’t imagine how horrible they are feeling right now.”

Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon board president Ron Ilgen was unsure if the tragedy would prompt increased security locally.

“Any race now, especially the larger ones like the Marine Corps (Marathon), will have to worry about being a target,” he said. “At the smaller events, I am sure the police are on alert. I just went to a conference where we talked about how to handle weather and runner cancellations but nothing like this.”

Race security is especially tough because runners have bags of clothes waiting at the finish. Spectators often carry backpacks.

“We need to be prudent but God forbid if everyone has to go through a metal detector,” Rainsberger said. “The cost may be too high for the smaller races.”

It was hard for Ilgen, who has run in Boston, to fathom the attack a few hours later.

“It’s hard to think who would do that at such a celebration,” he said. “The whole city supports the race. For this to happen on such a day is terrible.”

The timing, five hours after the marathon began, was not lost on Rainsberger. The top finishers, usually foreign, were long gone.

“They knew what they were doing,” she said. “The ones who were still there were full-blooded Americans.”

Like many, Keith Wood, 84, was trying to find out about his friends.

“It looks like they are all safe but the results aren’t posted,” Wood said. “Of course they have bigger things to worry about than that. I guess I’m lucky.”

The retired accountant from Sultan, Wash., a Pikes Peak Marathon regular, chose to stay home after running in Boston the previous two years. He was the oldest runner last spring.

Such a tragedy will galvanize the nation’s runners to support those affected by the attack, Rainsberger said.

“It is a very tight, supportive community,” she said. “These are the movers and shakers of their individual communities. They know how to get things done.”

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