Ex-Buckeye coach details blast

BOSTON — Eric Laughlin has competed in eight marathons.

None, however, were like Monday’s 177th running of the Boston Marathon.

And that had nothing to do with Laughlin needing 3 hours, 12 minutes and 27 seconds to run the 26.2 mile trek around Boston and its suburbs.

Laughlin estimated that he was just 1,000 or so meters from the site of the deadly explosions, which is being called a terrorist attack by the federal government, when the first of two bombs was detonated at approximately 2:50 p.m.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” Laughlin said from his Boston hotel Monday evening. “I had a million things running through my head.”

Laughlin, who is the former Buckeye Local cross country coach and now guides the West Liberty University program, headed to the medical tent for some treatment after finishing his race.

Nearly a full hour later, Laughlin was heading out of the race’s finish area and preparing to walk back toward the course to wait on his friends to finish the race.

“All of the sudden, I heard this boom that just sounded like a cannon,” Laughlin said. “I thought it might have been some kind of gas line that exploded, but I turned around and saw the smoke and fire.”

The next few minutes were basically a blur.

“I knew something terribly bad had just happened and people were just running away from the scene,” Laughlin offered. “I turned and ran in a full sprint away from the area and then I heard the second boom.”

Laughlin stopped briefly and turned to see that another explosion had occurred and at that point it was becoming clear that the city of Boston and innocent runners and people were being attacked.

“This is the worst thing I’ve ever encountered in my life,” Laughlin admitted. “My heart just goes out to everyone who was affected by this.”

Laughlin spent much of the next few hours anxiously waiting to hear from his friends. All of them were eventually located and made their way back to the hotel.

The next order of business was trying to reach his family, friends and his Hilltopper runners in the Ohio Valley to let them know he was safe.

“They shut down the cell service up here and you couldn’t make a call,” Laughlin said.

He found a computer and accessed his Facebook account and posted a quick message letting everyone know that he was OK.

“I had all sorts of people, including my athletes at West Liberty, trying to reach me,” Laughlin said. “They’re watching it all unfold on television, and I had no way, other than Facebook, to get word to anyone.”

The Wintersville resident had nothing but high praise for the work done by the first responders and Boston Police Department as the events unfolded.

“It was pandamonium at first, but within 30 minutes of the first explosion, Boston police had the entire place under lockdown,” Laughlin said.

Numerous runners were still on the course when the explosion occurred and the race was stopped immediately and didn’t resume. According to Laughlin, the majority of the people injured from the explosions were what appeared to be either fans or people standing behind the bleachers.

“I am not sure what the world is coming to,” Laughlin said. “But, this is really bad.”

Laughlin travelled up to Beantown over the weekend as he hoped to take in as much as possible of the city and get his final preparations for his first appearance in the world’s most famous and highly anticipated road races.

“The Pittsburgh and Columbus Marathons are great events, but this is the grand daddy of them all,” Laughlin said. “It’s 26 miles of walls of people lined up cheering and cheering, so for this to happen is just simply a mindless tragedy.”

Laughlin, who believes he’ll return for the Boston Marathon in 2014, is expected to return to the Ohio Valley today, barring any flight delays because of the attack.

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com