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Local runners, family narrowly avoid Boston blasts

By Jennifer Thurbide

“Confusing”, “chaotic”, “unbelievable” – are words that a rookie marathon runner may use to describe their first race, however, these were the words being used last week by a veteran who, along with his family, was caught up in what one U.S. news outlet called the “largest terrorist attack” on the country since September 11, 2001.

“I got out today to do some light runs with some running friends from up here so of course we went through the story a few times about what all happened,” said Roy Sidders on April 21. Almost a week after narrowly missing the duo blasts at the Boston Marathon that killed three and injured over a hundred athletes and spectators, Sidders says his family is happy to be back in Canada and that they were not injured during the international incident.

On April 15, the Sidders family – Roy and wife Dianne, sons Matthew, Neil, Scott, and Troy, along with other relatives, were in Boston for the annual race. This was the second year in a row that Roy qualified and chose to compete and was joined by a number of family members along the route to assist as guides.

Mere minutes after finishing the over 26 mile run with son Neil, and while working their way to meet up with son Matthew, Roy says the space around them was filled with the sounds of the two blasts.

“We were on a street that probably had thousands of people and the blasts were about 15 seconds apart and the street went completely silent… There were a lot of families that were there to meet their runners and we were runners with space blankets on [indicating our finish] but there weren’t a lot of runners anymore. These family members were asking us ‘where were you guys’ because they were looking for family members.”

Roy says he and the boys were also looking for their kin as they had made arrangements with Dianne and others to meet past the finish line after the race.

“They weren’t able to get to us and we weren’t easily able to get to them.” He says the boys borrowed cell phones from those around them but signals were jammed.

Eventually the runners made a decision to try to make it back to the hotel which was more than two miles away.

“The Sidders boy family motto is leave nothing on the table. Matthew definitely did – it’s how we are. To have decision making ability and contemplate walking 5 or 6 kilometres to the hotel was out of the realm of possibility. There was no way I was going to do that at first.” Thanks to the generosity of a Boston stranger, the crew was able to make it back to the hotel and reunite with the group.

Roy says he couldn’t believe the story that was told by the other half of his party who were caught within the blast radius. They anticipate each blast went off less than 100 metres from the group which was standing on the other side of the finish line and engulfed in the chaos as they tried to escape from the blast site.

The experience, he says, has left a cloud over what would have been a celebratory race for the family, specifically for racer Matthew who posted an impressive 2:59.37 to qualify as a SUB 3:00.00. The family is meeting up in the coming weeks for a wedding and Roy says will give Matthew his proper salute.

The city of Boston was shut down for days while authorities from all levels investigated the blast and by last weekend had one suspect in custody. On April 19, the second suspect died in hospital after an altercation with police where a university police officer was killed and another wounded. Coverage of the week’s events has inundated newspapers, television broadcasts and social media platforms.

Having witnessed the events first hand, Roy says he hopes that the message that “life is precious” resonates with those who have seen and heard of the incident.

“A big event like this makes you realize how important each day is and living respectfully with people – life is a precious thing and don’t treat it as a given. It is too bad, it seems like people have to be immediately affected before having a profound change to understand that. In a way it would be sure nice if people could – learn the lesson,” he adds.

The Sidders family thanks the community for the kind words and thoughts throughout this ordeal, having received numerous phone messages and texts expressing concern and encouragement.

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