Ironwood runner finishes race hour before explosions


Paavo Nurmi Marathon photo

DONNA GERING, of Ironwood, finished the Boston Marathon an hour before the two explosions Monday.

BOSTON — Ironwood’s Donna Gering, 48, finished the Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 23 minutes, an hour and 6 minutes before two explosions rocked the finish-line area Monday.

Her husband, Jim Gering, was watching the race across the street from where the second bomb went off, but left before that happened. He had even considered going across the street because the warm sun was shining there on the cool day. He didn’t because it would have meant a much longer walk to meet Donna after the race.

“Like I told her, you hate to see anybody get hurt,” Jim said. “But if she wouldn’t have finished at the time she did, we could have both been in the middle of it. It’s one of those things, it’s the last thing you would expect to happen — at the Boston Marathon.”

Jim and Donna talked to the Daily Globe from their room at the Sheraton Boston, just blocks from where the bombs went off. They were in lockdown with the national guard providing security.

It was the fourth Boston Marathon for Donna Gering, who had a fantastic finishing time Monday.

“I was very happy with my time,” she said. “That’s all thrown to the side with everything that’s happening.

“It’s a little scary in the city right now. I wish I could get out of here, but we can’t.”

Jim Engel, who also has competed in the Boston Marathon, said he’s glad to hear she’s OK.

“That’s smokin’ man,” Engel, of Wakefield, said of her time. “That’s a good time for any gender, any age, but especially for a 40-plus year old gal. She’s an awesome runner.”

The Gerings’ trip to Boston started Thursday, when they just hoped the weather would allow them to get to Minneapolis to fly out. They had a good time in Boston and Donna got on the bus to the starting line early Monday morning.

Jim Gering was near the finish line early in the morning and saw the bomb-sniffing dogs checking out under the bleachers and the rest of the street.

Donna wasn’t sure how her race would go. Training in February and March around the Gogebic Range was a nightmare.

“When I tried to train, it was so cold and icy, I don’t know what I’m going to do out here,” Donna said. “Today was the second time I wore shorts. The first was yesterday. I’ve been wearing winter wear. We had so much snow.”

The weather was nice in Boston. She hit a little bit of a head wind in the last couple of miles and became a little tired, where maybe that difficulty training caught up with her a little.

Jim didn’t see her finish the race with so many runners moving past him. An AT&T app on his phone confirmed she finished and he left, going to the area where families meet runners. Jim figures he left his spectator position about 20 minutes to a half an hour before the bomb went off.

Without that app, “he might have stayed there longer,” Donna said.

They didn’t mingle by the finish line because race officials tell runners to keep moving to prevent congestion. They went to their hotel, about 1.5 blocks from the finish line.

They went downstairs and went back outside.

“There were people filing down the road we were at, girls crying,” Donna said. “We said, ‘What’s going on?’ They said there were a couple of explosions.

“I never thought this would happen,” Donna said. “It’s my fourth time. We were going to bring the kids. But I tell you, I’m so glad they had other things to do. I’m really glad they weren’t out here.”

Monday evening, they were in their hotels with the National Guard downstairs. City officials didn’t want people in the streets.

“We’ve got the National Guard with rifles in our hotel downstairs,” Donna said. “To see rifles there and cops in every corner, we were just finding out there were more placed under the bleachers now, one at a hotel and we’re in a hotel.

“What was supposed to be a great time is ... oh well, I hope everybody else is OK.”

“Just shock, utter shock,” Jim said of his reaction to the news. “You would never think in a million years coming to an event like this that something like this would happen. To be locked in a hotel like this, with the National Guard, SWAT teams all over the place. There’s bomb dogs.”

Plus, one never knows where another bomb could be hidden.

“You don’t know, especially when you’re in the crime scene area. We’re right by the two tallest buildings in the city and you think about 9-11. You start thinking it could have been worse if they had a big enough bomb to blow one of these buildings up,” Jim said.

“As excited as you are to be out here, see the sights and the history, it just kind of ruined it all,” Jim said. “It brings you back down to earth and makes you be thankful we weren’t in the middle of it.”

They are scheduled to fly out today.

“We really appreciate the tons and tons of text messages,” Donna said of friends and relatives wondering if they were OK.

It was hard to get in touch with anybody back home because cell service was strained after the bombings.

“I ended up calling my mom from the hotel phone and told her if anybody calls, we’re OK. We want to respond, but we can’t,” Donna said. “Boy, I never thought something like this would happen at a sporting event like this. For us, I’m not used to this. It’s a little scary. There’s a few people walking out, a few people moving outside. They don’t want you to.”

She finished this year’s marathon in 1,148th place. Her official time was 3:23:36. She had told her husband the fourth time would be the last time to Boston before the race.

“I don’t care to have to qualify. You have to qualify 20 minutes faster. I’m getting older,” she said. “We’ve always had a great time in Boston, so I thought one more time and this is what happens.”


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