April 16, 2013

Local Boston marathoner ‘just sickened’ by fatal explosions

Two local runners safe

Rachel Brown
rachelbrown@daltoncitizen.com

— It was Rocky Face resident Michael Sweeney’s lifelong dream to run the Boston Marathon.

Since October, he had nearly doubled his mileage to about 75 miles each week. Then he qualified for the exclusive race, finishing with a personal best time on Monday of 3 hours, 10 minutes and 16 seconds.

Back at his condo about an hour later watching the rest of the race, he learned of multiple explosions at the finish line on Boylston Street — and that fellow local runner and co-worker Ray Beem was unaccounted for. By about 7 p.m., friends were able to confirm Beem was all right.

At least three people were killed in the explosions and more than 140 injured, according to The Associated Press. There was no word on the motive or who may have launched the attacks, the AP reported. Two bombs exploded about 100 yards apart at the finish line, ripping limbs off several people, and two more explosive devices were found near the finish before they went off. A third explosion occurred at the John F. Kennedy Library several miles away, but no injuries were reported there.

“We were so excited about my PR (personal record),” Sweeney said. “This takes all that away. My wife and I are just sickened by this.”

Beem, an Apison, Tenn., resident who is also a Carpet Capital Running Club member, hadn’t been publicly accounted for several hours after the race. Sweeney and Beem were the only two club members registered for the event, club president Erica Cannon Zimmerman said.

Beem said he was part of the group that did not get to finish the race, stopping at 25.7 miles.

“My heart and prayers go out to the families of the bomb victims,” he wrote in a Facebook post shared with The Daily Citizen. “(Wife) Lisa and I are fine. Lisa witnessed one of the bombs go off at Starbucks from less than 100 yards!!!!”

Friends said they knew Beem was on pace to finish at close to the same time as the first explosions, and they were glad to finally hear he was uninjured.

“I work with him at Shaw,” Sweeney said. “He is a driver, and I’m a trailer mechanic. We see each other once and a while and talk running.”

Sweeney, 47, said he began running in high school and dreamed of one day being in the Boston Marathon. About three years ago, he began running again and found his niche.

Before the bombs, Boston was all it had promised to be. There were bands, lots of people cheering and Sweeney was cruising along.

“I was having a great day,” Sweeney said. “I progressively got faster as the race went on. At times, I was amazed how fast I was running. The only problem was it was hard to pass because of the crowds of runners.”

About 23,000 runners were registered for the 26.2-mile race.