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Local runners prepare for return to Boston Marathon after 2013 attack

Tony Casey • Apr 12, 2014 at 9:59 PM

Three runners from the area are returning to the Boston Marathon after last year’s terrorist attack near the race’s finish line, and while their goal would normally be to set a personal-best time for the 26.2-mile distance, this year, things are different.

Doctors Richard Pectol and Fazzaz Hamati will both take part in one of the most historic races in the country. Sheri Nemeth, a manufacturing consultant, will also be competing.

Nemeth finished 2013’s installment of the race in three hours, 58 minutes and 17 seconds, some 10 minutes before the first explosion hit the final stretch of the race. She was extremely happy with her finish, which was mighty quick for the runner who’s now completed a marathon in 36 of 50 states. Had she been a little off that day, even 25 seconds slower per mile, she might have come through right when the first bomb went off.

“I was pretty lucky,” Nemeth said.

She and her sister had a designated meeting spot some 400 meters past the finish line. Boom, an explosion and Nemeth and her sister thought the stands had collapsed. Only on the second explosion, did they know they were dealing with bombs.

“Those are bombs, we need to get out of here,” her sister said.

They scurried back to their hotel against the grain of law enforcement officials who were trying to clear the area. Nemeth said she saw nearly 30 ambulances on the way back to the hotel. When she arrived, she and her sister were told by management, “Go to your room and stay in your room.”

She’s returning for her third year in a row and will continue to do so as long as she can hit her Boston-qualifying time. With a bum achilles tendon, Nemeth is running Boston as a fun run, expecting to spend a little less time competing this time around so she can focus on showing support for the event as well as taking in the experience and race signs around her. She won’t be alone, as there will be nearly 40,000 other runners toeing the line through four waves, or separate starts.

Hamati is expecting to do the same thing — take in the race and experience the crowds better than the year before, when he only reached the 40-kilometer mark of the 42.2-kilometer race. This year, Hamati is going to finish in style, taking it all in. Last year, during all the chaos that he narrowly missed, he battled through the human traffic and offered his services as a physician, but was told by emergency crews that they had all the help they needed and wanted him to clear out and stay safe.

“It was a mess,” Hamati said. He found out something happened because in previous races, it was unusual for cross traffic to impede the course of the runners, but then he heard ahead that there had been an explosion

After making it back to his hotel, he had the issue of attempting to contact his daughter and wife to let them know he was safe, which was the goal of many runners that day, clogging up the phone lines. He feared his daughter’s worst thoughts were that her father wasn’t all right and was relieved to finally get her the message that he was OK.

Pectol, a surgeon from Greeneville, nearly cracked the three-hour mark in 2013’s race with a 3:02.15 and was back at the hotel, in his shower when the explosions occurred. His wife and daughter immediately told him that something was happening.

“It was impressive how well they immediately handled it,” Pectol said. “We flicked on the news and they were already calling it a bombing.”

Pectol said his first thoughts went back to Sept. 11, 2001, because he looked out his hotel windows to see such large buildings around he and his family. He both wanted to help as a physician, like Hamati, but, more immediately wanted to make sure his family was safe.

This will be Pectol’s 10th Boston Marathon in a row and though it will be the race he’s become extremely familiar with, this year will be more emotional than anything else.

Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonycaseyjournalist.

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