Monday, 18 December 2017

Athlete tells of how he was nearly caught up in US terror attack

A CAVERSHAM man who competed in the Boston Marathon says he ran the London Marathon as a mark of respect

A CAVERSHAM man who competed in the Boston Marathon says he ran the London Marathon as a mark of respect after a very difficult week.

Michael Sartorius crossed the finish line in the American city an hour before the bomb explosions on April 15.

His wife Katrina had intended to watch from the area where the bombs were detonated but instead settled for a spot 100 yards away due to the large crowd.

The couple had travelled to Boston for a long weekend as Mr Sartorius had dreamed of taking part in what he regards as “the most famous and prestigious marathon in the world”.

But his elation at completing the race in three hours and 11 minutes turned to horror when he heard the two explosions from his hotel.

Mr Sartorius, of Meadow Way, recalled: “We had gone back to the Fairmont Copley Plaza and I was changing to head back to watch the later runners come in when were heard two loud explosions.

“As the Boston Marathon is such a high-profile event, I think we both immediately realised that there was a possibility that the explosions were part of a terrorist attack.

“The US news channel which we tuned into originally reported that the explosions were possibly a problem with the sewers or the TV electrical equipment so we were temporarily relieved, hoping that no one had been seriously injured.

“But when the footage of the explosions was shown we immediately recognised the locations having been to both the day before shopping and for lunch. There was shock and disbelief, hoping that what we were witnessing hadn’t actually happened. We were obviously relieved as Katrina had intended to watch from roughly that area but hadn’t been able to get that side of the finish line due to the crowds.

“But predominately we felt saddened — the marathon itself was exceptionally well supported throughout but particularly so along the finishing stretch and we were both aware that would mean fatalities and serious injuries.

“We were bombarded by texts and telephone calls from family and friends who had heard or seen the news in the UK. I think it’s fair to say that we just wanted to get home and be with our boys.”

The couple caught the first flight out the next day and were reunited with their children Benjamin, seven, and Matthew, four, who had been staying with family.

Mr Sartorius, a civil servant, described the aftermath of the suspected terrorist attack as “very emotional”. He said: “We’ve had the discussion with a number of friends that had I run slower or faster and gone back out to watch we might have been caught up in the explosions. We are simply relieved we weren’t.

“We can’t imagine how the people who have lost loved ones or sustained injury through such a senseless act must be feeling. It’s indescribably sad.”

Mr Sartorius, a member of Reading Roadrunners, was determined to run on Sunday despite a calf injury.

He said: “I thought it was the very least I could do to make the start line and join the mark of respect like the other runners.

“From what I saw, practically every runner was wearing a black ribbon and the silence was impeccably well respected by runners and spectators alike.”

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