Runners return from Boston with stories of survival - FOX 13 News

Runners return from Boston with stories of survival

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Coleen Christensen wanted a bird's eye view of the Boston Marathon.

"It was just packed. It was just so full of people. It always is. I said, 'This is ridiculous.' I knew from my hotel window I could see the finish line," Christensen said Tuesday.

Just a few moments after stepping into the elevator of her hotel, Christensen heard a sound she'll never forget.

"Everyone's going, 'What's going on? What's going on?' I went and looked out the window of my room and it was just total chaos. It was crazy," she said.

She was on the 5th floor of the Lenox Hotel, shooting video with her iPad and captured the moments of panic, chaos, and confusion that followed the Boston bombings.

Her boyfriend, Bruce Shephard, was running the marathon and was just feet from the finish line when the first bomb went off.

"I reached mile 26 when the first explosion went off. At that point I was exhausted and not sure what to expect," Shephard said Tuesday.

Just seconds later, another blast shocked the runners into a terrifying reality.

"The whole Boston Marathon group heading down in my area, two blocks from the finish line, did a 180 back up Boylston, away from the finish line," he said.

A thick cloud of smoke began to rise just ahead as police swarmed in.

"I was looking down the street, thinking these manhole covers could explode. I took a left into the first opening I could find, a furniture store. I waited in there for ten minutes," Shephard said.

He didn't have a cell phone. Christensen desperately tried to pick him out in the crowd just below her fifth story room.

Two-and-a-half hours later, the two finally connected. Her video now serves as a chronicle of Bruce Shephard's luckiest time lacing up.

"It's just by the grace of God that I'm living and healthy. This is my happiest Boston. This is my ninth running the Boston Marathon. The only one I didn't finish in and turned out to be the happiest," he said.

The couple's hotel was later evacuated since it was so close to the explosions. They had to leave quickly without their luggage.

*******

It was a time for celebrating, but Jill Kralovanec's first Boston Marathon finish was cut short by one shuddering sound.

"It went from excitement and joy, to just dead silence," Kralovanec said Tuesday.

Jill had completed the 26.2 mile trek, ten minutes before. She was snapping photos with family and friends just moments before two bombs rocked Boston.

They were just a block away.

"We saw all the smoke and my friend's sister texted her and said, 'You need to get out of there now," Kralovanec said.

Her husband, Paul, had moved minutes before from a perfect spot to watch her cross the finish line. The second bomb exploded almost exactly where he had been standing.

"I know if Jill would've been having a bad race, was a little slower, I was half a block from where this happened and could have been right in the middle of it," Paul Kralovanec said.

As the streets flooded with first responders and smoke, the two realized just what they were witnessing.

"I got texts. My phone was just ringing off the hook from everybody. I posted on Facebook because I figured that was the fastest way to let everyone know we were ok," Jill said Tuesday.

Jill's final push through the finish just may have saved her and her husband's life. Still, those final steps of the Boston Marathon are remembered as somber, not sweet.

"It puts a damper on it, because you just realize that there are so many things that are more important. I just want to go home and hug my kids," she said.

Despite the terrifying experience, Kralovanec says she would still compete again in the Boston Marathon.

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