Local runners’ greatest day turned frightening

Scott Yakubek of Salem was beaming about his best time ever at the Boston Marathon. Brian Wilson of Columbiana was thrilled about running for the first time there.

Both local runners had completed the most famous race in the world on Monday afternoon before two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing at least three people and injuring more than 100.

“I ran my best time,” Yakubek said. “It was a pretty good day until that happened. It’s pretty awful.”

“Today was not what we expected,” Wilson said. “It was my first time in the Boston Marathon and my first time in Boston.

“The spectators are amazing. It was a great day until the bad news.”

Both were heading back to their hotels when the explosions occurred.

“I was two miles away when we got the news,” Yakubek said. “I got the whole family together and got out of town.”

He knew traffic in downtown Boston would come to a standstill after the bombings. His group, which totals eight family members, got safely to their hotel about 17 miles out of town.

Wilson along with his wife, Amber, and 9-week-old son, Liam, were taking a cab to their hotel about a mile from the finish.

“We didn’t hear the explosions,” he said. “I couldn’t walk anymore, so we caught a cab the last half mile. My wife thought she heard a siren. My dad called me and we just walked into the hotel. He asked if we were all right. We didn’t know anything about it.”

Wilson watched emergency vehicles drive by his hotel window.

“There were a bunch of sirens,” he said. “There was a lot of traffic because they shut the train station down.

“I got a little worried because they said at other hotels, they detonated a couple of others. Luckily we’re a good mile away.”

Monday started out like any other Boston Marathon day with 23,336 runners ready for the challenge.

“It’s awesome,” said Yakubek, a 1997 graduate of Salem High School. “It’s the biggest thing for runners around the world. People work very hard to get there. Only about 10 percent of the marathon runners get to go there.”

He covered the challenging 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 54 minutes – his best in three Boston races, attributing it to better training this time around.

Then Yakubek got something to eat, picked up his bag and had a massage before picking up his family at a nearby restaurant.

“I had crossed the finish line about two hours before (the explosions),” Yakubek said.

Wilson had been waiting for this day after running a qualifying time at the Erie (Pa.) Marathon in September.

“The beginning of the day was beautiful,” Wilson said. “I left the hotel at 5:30 (in the morning) and caught the bus to the race. We knew all week the weather would be beautiful.”

A 2000 graduate of Columbiana High School, Wilson was wearing his Clipper jersey for the race. His time of 3 hours, 25 minutes was about 25 minutes off his goal.

“The experience was awesome,” Wilson said. “I didn’t run what I expected. I was kind of glad. If I would have run faster, I would have been happy and we would have stayed around longer.

“I was really sore afterwards, so we went back to the hotel.”

The runners watched updates of the situation on television Monday night and will head back home today.

“The thing is, any time I’m in a big crowd, I think about it,” Yakubek said. “I thought about it at the starting line. With so many people, there’s a lot of ways in and out of that place.”

Yakubek said he may not run again at Boston because of Monday’s events.

“This is my favorite race because it is so significant,” he said. “It’s a tough question.”

Local runners’ greatest day turned frightening

BOSTON – Tom Pinkerton had just sat down after running more than 26 miles on Monday in the Boston Marathon when things turned chaotic. He crossed the finish line in just under three and a half hours, returned to his hotel room and took a minute to relax.

Then came the explosion.

“It sounded like one huge finale of fireworks all at one time happening five feet in front of you,” said Pinkerton, a 1979 East Liverpool graduate.

Pinkerton, who now resides in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., estimated he was 100 feet from the site of one of the blasts.

“My initial reaction was that I was right at the finish line and there was so much media and news equipment out there that something with that had to have blown up,” he said. “But, I thought that couldn’t be that loud. I looked out the window and saw smoke rolling out of the front of the building across the street and everyone I saw had a dazed look on their face.”

Pinkerton was staying at The Lenox Hotel and decided his safest option was to remain in his room. He continued to look out his room and said he was lucky to be far enough away as to not see the carnage up close.

“There were people on the ground everywhere,” he said. “There was emergency personnel coming from everywhere. I didn’t have my glasses so I didn’t have to really see some of the ugly injuries, but you could tell they were making tourniquets for people.”

Pinkerton said he then attempted to get in touch with family members, including two sisters who still live in East Liverpool, to let them know he wasn’t injured. However, his phone would not make or receive any calls.

“The next thing I know, police are going around beating on everyone’s doors,” he said. “They told everyone to just get out.”

Pinkerton said he was told the hotel would be placed on a 24-hour lockdown. Guests were not allowed to return to collect their belongings.

“Luckily, I knew a few people and friends from the area so we were able to get another hotel room,” he said.

Before his phone began working again, several hours went by before Pinkerton could reach his family.

Debbie McCoy, a 1981 graduated and brother to Pinkerton, began to get more worried as the minutes ticked by without any word.

“As soon as we heard, I went on Facebook and one of his friends posted that he was OK,” McCoy said. “But, it’s still a horrible feeling. Until you hear his voice for yourself, you’re not sure.”

Around 5 p.m., McCoy got the call she had been waiting for.

“It was very chaotic when he called,” McCoy said. “You could hear all kinds of people screaming behind him. He just wanted to let his family know he was OK which made me feel better, but it was a little scary hearing all the chaos going on behind him.”

For Pinkerton, it was his 16th full marathon and fourth consecutive finish at the Boston Marathon. Pinkerton represented his alma mater by wearing an East Liverpool Potters track jersey sent to him by longtime coach Scott Thornberry. He said that he “proudly wore his Potters’ shirt” and that up until the explosions, it was just another normal race day.

“It was a great day and a great race,” he said. “The great thing about this race is the crowd support. It’s tremendous, but the crowd is so thick and so many people congregate in the area.”

As for Pinkerton’s future in marathon racing, he said that he wouldn’t let these heinous acts stop him from pursuing his passion.

“Well, it definitely gives you a great awareness of how fragile life can be,” he said. “I’ll continue to run, but I’ll have a heightened awareness about me. I’ll be much more aware of my surroundings and what’s going on.”