Marathon Runner 4/19/13

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 19, 2013

Overton, friends two blocks away from Boston bomb blast

By John Howell Sr.

They had picked out their post-race rendezvous point the day before.

C. D. Overton, John Ingram, Bob Morris and Will Smith — young men who normally join together as the Litigators to play rock and roll — were last weekend in Boston. Overton had qualified in 2012 to run in the 117th Boston Marathon. His fellow musicians went to cheer him on.

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On Sunday, knowing that the following day 500,000 people were expected in the downtown Boston area near the finish line, they picked a spot where the three spectators would meet the runner after he finished the 26.2 mile course.

Television and Internet viewers have, albeit unknowingly, seen that spot. As they have watched played repeatedly the video of the successive blasts on crowded Boylston Street along the finish line, they have also viewed the sidewalk area between the two blast sites where the four had agreed to meet.

But they weren’t there when the blasts occurred.

Instead, they had walked about two blocks away towards a pub, Overton said.

Overton had finished the race in three hours, 16 minutes, 42 seconds — among the early finishers but just short of the three hours, 15 minutes that would have automatically qualified him to enter next year’s Boston Marathon, he said.

He had walked to a post-race area set aside for runners to receive their medals, food, water and to retrieve their bags of belongings. Once he had his cell phone back in hand, Overton said, he got a text from Morris suggesting that they head away from the crowded finish line area and find a place for food and drink.

They had almost reached their destination, Overton said. “We were just about to cross the street to go to a pub and heard, ‘Boom, boom.’”

They each exchanged looks but shrugged it off, thinking that ceremonial cannons had been fired as part of the Patriot’s Day celebration or that explosives were being used at a nearby project where a high-rise was under construction.

But about five minutes later, Overton continued, after they had been seated and were awaiting their order, the room suddenly went quiet as televisions screens in the room started broadcasting reports of the bombings.

They looked out windows and saw people running by. On television, they saw reports of the city shutting down as it activated its emergency mobilization.

At first cell phones were ringing non-stop throughout the pub, Overton said. Then in an instant all cell phone service stopped, “either shut down or overloaded.”

“So we just stayed there,” Overton said.

After about two-and-one half hours, having learned that the subway — the “T” — was again operating, they returned to their hotel about three miles away, he said.

That night called the downtown restaurant where they had earlier made reservations for dinner and were assured that it would be open for business.

“The town was dead, nobody was on the streets,” Overton said.

Instead, armed S.W.A.T teams were spread along mostly deserted streets where crowds had thronged earlier in the day.

After the men returned to their hotel, their trip returned to the schedule they had expected, enabling their return flight to bring them home on Tuesday as planned.

But their story soon went viral, both by phone and Facebook.

“I still don’t know who some of those people are,” he said, referring to text messages that started pouring into his phone.

As word spread on Facebook during the time that they were unsure whether they would be able to return to their hotel, they got a “friend-of-a-friend” invitation to stay at a fire house in nearby Cambridge,” Overton said.

Somebody sent him a text message that stated, “For somebody who doesn’t do Facebook, you are trending.”

“It really did help,” Overton said of the social media frenzy. “People found out immediately that we were okay.”

As for Ingram, Morris and Smith, Overton said that he is unsure how close his spectator friends may have been to either the bomber or bombs.

“But they were real close,” he said. “I’m just glad everybody got back safe.”