Local runners glad to be home

On Tuesday, while police swept the scene of the twin bombings that ravaged the Boston Marathon, exhausted local runners journeyed home as others prepared to honor the dead and wounded.

For some, dayslong trips were cut short as a mile-wide section of downtown Boston was placed on lockdown.

For others it meant little sleep, with calls and messages pouring in from friends and family in Pennsylvania.

“They were going to stay,” said Kathy Gicking of Hollidaysburg, whose daughter Jill – a Hollidaysburg native living in King of Prussia – finished Monday’s race shortly before the blasts. “Her husband was like, ‘No, we’re getting out of here.'”

The couple, accompanied by sons ages 10 and 13, hurriedly packed their bags and left the city, Gicking said.

“She literally finished 21 minutes before the bombs hit,” Gicking said Tuesday, her voice cracking.

“Praise the Lord – they weren’t injured. Fortunately, the boys

didn’t see anything.”

A Blair County group, mere blocks away when the explosions tore through the crowd, spent a fitful night in Boston before they left for home early Tuesday morning.

“We’re all together, one big, happy family,” Jayme Orr of Altoona said, laughing, in a phone call shortly after crossing the Pennsylvania border. “We’re all just happy to get home.”

The group, which included fellow runner Tina Kunstbeck, her son, Dima, and Orr’s boyfriend, Donnie Rhodes, saw inbound traffic at a standstill as they drove out of Boston, Orr said. Parts of the city, including hotels immediately surrounding the bomb site, were on lockdown immediately after the attack.

“It’ll be nice to see family and friends. Nice to relax, too,” Orr said. “We didn’t get much sleep.”

Other local runners were reportedly safe, though some couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon. Cambria County Planning Commission Director Ethan Imhoff and Hollidaysburg native Megan Duffett were out of harm’s way, Hollidaysburg Area YMCA Executive Director Tom Kopriva said.

Two female runners reportedly from Huntingdon were, in fact, from Huntingdon Valley near Philadelphia, a marathon database indicated.

While local marathongoers trekked home, a scheduled 5-kilometer run in State College – intended to honor victims of two prior acts of mass violence – took on a more immediate significance Tuesday.

The Jeremy Herbstritt Memorial run, now in its seventh year, was named for a Bellefonte native and Penn State graduate killed in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. Proceeds from Tuesday’s run were intended for victims’ families in Newtown, Conn., site of the December elementary school shooting that left 26 dead, spokesman Mike Casper said.

Herbstritt’s family decided to send the money to Newtown to pass on the support they’d received after Jeremy’s death, Casper said.

“They wanted to provide a bridge to them,” he said.

In light of Monday’s Boston attack, he said, organizers tentatively expected greater numbers at the evening run.

“It’s intended to be more inclusive,” Casper said. “Not just the Virginia Tech victims – but anyone who’s been a victim of violence.”

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.