NB runner recalls ‘Marathon Monday’ in Boston

North Branch resident Chris Judson finished the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:16:07, well ahead of the first explosion that turned the annual celebration into terror. Photo courtesy of MarathonFoto

North Branch resident Chris Judson finished the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:16:07, well ahead of the first explosion that turned the annual celebration into terror.
Photo courtesy of MarathonFoto

Cambridge woman says ‘fate was in her corner’ 

It was Patriots Day in Massachusetts, where many folks in the Boston area had the day off to take part in the festivities tied with “Marathon Monday.”

As the world watched, however, the celebration turned to turmoil as terror in the form of two homemade bombs struck, killing three and injuring so many others near the Boston Marathon finish line.

Avid runner and marathon participant Chris Judson, 36, of North Branch, had already crossed the finish line at 3 hours, 16 minutes and 7 seconds and made it back to his hotel room by the time the first explosion hit. With him were his wife Erin and their 8-year-old daughter, who were spectators at the location of the second blast.

“They had been cheering from that site for two and a half hours and saw the winners come across the finish line,” Judson said. “At the end of the day, we’re just really fortunate and happy to be home. Thinking about it all week, you wonder what could have happened if we did things differently. We were close, but we were not there.”

Another local runner, Lorie Dixon, of Cambridge, who works as a nurse in the Emergency Department at Cambridge Medical Center, was supposed to run in the Boston Marathon, but she never made the trip. She heard about the bombings on her way to work that day around 2:20 p.m.

This image shows where Chris Judson’s wife and daughter were standing as the winners of the marathon approached the finish line. This was the site of the second explosion, which occurred well after Judson finished the race and he and his family were safe at their hotel. Photo submitted by Chris Judson family

This image shows where Chris Judson’s wife and daughter were standing as the winners of the marathon approached the finish line. This was the site of the second explosion, which occurred well after Judson finished the race and he and his family were safe at their hotel.
Photo submitted by Chris Judson family

“Fate was in my corner,” she said last week. “Yes, I signed up for it and was ready to be part of this amazing race, but I decided not to go about a month ago. I had too many coals in the fire … I was sad with my decision and threw away my Boston Marathon packet a couple weeks ago.”

Dixon added, “I would have most likely been crossing the finish line about the time of the explosions (the 4-hour mark), and my significant other, Dan Owl of the Cambridge Police Department, would have been in the finisher’s crowd, cheering me on. So it was a blessing in disguise for two Cambridge citizens.”

Judson was among the 17,500 or so of the 23,000 total runners who actually finished the marathon. After crossing the finish line, he reunited with his family before going out for lunch a few blocks away. It wasn’t until they turned on the television in their hotel room in Cambridge, Mass., that they became aware of the bombings.

“We caught the last train out of town,” Judson said of another fortunate event that would have been difficult, if not impossible, following the bombings. “When we got back to our hotel room and watched it unfold on TV, we were all dumbfounded.”

At first, he recalled, reports indicated the first explosion was probably the result of an electrical accident, “but then it started to get surreal.” At that point, the Judsons turned off the television to protect their young daughter from watching the aftermath, and they went to the hotel pool.

Still, they couldn’t escape the event that had everyone’s attention. Other marathon runners stayed at the same hotel, and they were asking who was able to finish the race. The bottom line, however, was each other’s safety.

“For an extremely competitive group of people, finishing times didn’t matter anymore,” Judson explained. “People were saying, ‘Glad you finished, glad you’re safe.’”

Judson, a manager at Polaris in Wyoming, is a longtime runner who in seven years has competed in 10 marathons including the Twin Cities, Grandma’s and another in Ashland, Wis. This year marked the second time he’s run the Boston Marathon, while wife Erin participated in Sunday’s 5K, a scenic run that ends at the finish line on Boylston Street.

Some might wonder if the tragedy on April 15 might have an effect on Judson’s running or entry at a future Boston Marathon.

“I hope to make it back,” Judson said. “It’s a challenging task to make it, and I won’t let some sinful act of violence hold me back.”

  • maryheleh swanson

    Good job localizing this tragic story, Jon.

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