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Norwood runner recounts Boston Marathon explosion; four area runners were entered to race

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BOSTON - Norwood native Colleen A. Cotey had just finished the Boston Marathon for the first time and was about a block away from the finish line when the sound of an explosion pierced the air.

“I didn’t really know what it was, then probably less than three minutes later people were in a panic,” she said.

Uninjured in the explosion, Ms. Cotey said she was nervous because she didn’t have her cell phone with her. Her mother, Ann B., had gone near the finish line area to watch her complete the race.

“I assumed they were OK, but all the chaos did make me nervous,” she said.

Borrowing a cell phone from a stranger, her first call was unsuccessful, as the city’s cellular networks were likely overloaded. Using a second person’s phone, she was able to reach her mother, also uninjured, and tell her to meet her at the hotel they were staying at in the city, where her father Charles W., and boyfriend, Alexander G. Boak, Norwood, a hockey player at Clarkson University, were waiting for them.

Mr. Boak said he hadn’t heard the initial blast and while waiting for his girlfriend to appear he received a large number of calls and text messages from friends looking to see if Ms. Cotey was safe.

“I didn’t know what to tell them,” he said.

He said the four weren’t reunited until about a half hour after the explosion.

“It was kind of nerve-wrecking until we saw her walking down the street,” Mr. Boak said. “You’re hoping the worst didn’t happen and luckily it didn’t.”

Ms. Cotey said that she was still processing what she had just seen.

“At first, it was kind of unbelievable, and now it’s sinking in,” she said. “Wow...that really happened.”

Ms. Cotey said she’s unlikely to run the marathon again the near future, but not because of what happened after her race.

“I don’t like to do the same things over and over,” she said. “I’ll probably just stick to half-marathons, but it was a goal of mine to run the Boston Marathon.”

Ms. Cotey said she didn’t do quite as well as she would have liked finishing the race in three hours and 47 minutes.

“I was shooting for about 15 minutes faster,” she said.

Ms. Cotey graduated from Norwood-Norfolk Central School in 2008, running track and cross-county while there, as well as at SUNY Plattsburgh, where she went to college.

Another north country native also ran in the race.

Lauren M. Sischo, who graduated from South Jefferson Central School District in 2005, was on a bus leaving the city when she learned of the explosion from a fellow passenger. Ms. Sischo now lives in Southboro, Mass., about 20 minutes outside the city.

The Rodman native said after what she called an exciting run and her best finish of the three times she had participated, the news was “not a good way to end the day.”

“There were so many people out there,” Ms. Sischo said. “For this to happen, your emotions are everywhere.”

Three other north country residents were listed as entrants for the race. However, Audra Adair, 37, of Sackets Harbor, Mary Kate Curran, 30, Canton and Mike Howard, 48, Canton, did not participate.

Ms. Curran and Mr. Howard, who both work at St. Lawrence University’s Athletic Department, were not able to attend the race due to scheduling conflicts.

Mr. Howard, the school’s director of cross country and track and field, said he had run the event last year, but was disappointed with his time, which he blamed on the unseasonably warm weather. He had trained since then with Ms. Curran, the school’s women’s track & field coach, in order to improve his time.

Mr. Howard said about 40 alumni of the school’s track program were at the race, and based on the messages he had received he said none of them were injured.

Mrs. Adair, a professional runner, said she was planning on attending the race, but was told by her coach she would instead train for an Iron Man event happening in a few weeks.

When she learned of the explosion, Mrs. Adair said she reflected on the security at past races.

“It’s never been a big deal,” she said. “It’s just mass chaos all the time, and you don’t even think about it.

Benny Fairchild contributed to this report.

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