Triumph and tragedy for Brooklyn runner in Boston

Triumph and tragedy for Brooklyn runner in Boston
Paul Nelson at the start of the Boston Marathon — before the prestigious foot race became the site of a national tragedy.
Courtesy of Paul Nelson

Prospect Park Alliance spokesman and dedicated Brooklyn runner Paul Nelson set his personal racing record at the Boston Marathon — less than an hour before bombs exploded at the finish line, separating him from his wife who remained on the course.

Nelson was cooling down in the hotel shower and soaking in his 3:16:35 triumph when twin blasts killed three and wounded more than 180 on Boylston Street one block away.

He didn’t hear the explosions, but got quick word of the catastrophe, and checked his wife Cassie’s progress on the race’s online tracking system.

“I did a quick calculation and knew that she was close to the explosions, but probably far enough away,” said the Bay Ridge resident, who was advised by police to stay in the hotel. “Every hotel had police outside. The site was blocked off from so far away that you couldn’t see anything.”

Cassie, like thousands of other runners, was halted for about 45 minutes and rerouted to avoid the tragic scene at the finish line, said Nelson, who received a text message from her sent using a stranger’s cellphone 30 minutes after the blasts saying that she was okay.

It was the second time Nelson — who has completed a marathon on every continent including Antarctica — had run the Boston Marathon, but he says it certainly won’t be the last.

“We will definitely return because cowardly acts of terrorism only truly succeed if we let them live our lives in fear,” said Nelson, who met his wife 12 years ago on a 20-mile ING New York City Marathon training run. “Having talked to a bunch of runners who finished or didn’t, the sentiment is the same: happy to be alive, angry at who did this to such a beautiful event, and utter grief for the dead, injured, and their families.”

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

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