Sevierville's Hood finished Boston Marathon hour before blasts

Apr. 16, 2013 @ 06:16 PM

Dr. John Hood had finished his eighth Boston Marathon and retrieved his complimentary bag in which his clothes and cellular telephone were stashed before the race began. He was about two blocks away when he heard the first bomb go off.

"It sounded like a loud cannon," the Sevierville chiropractor said Tuesday. "It was like something you'd hear on the Fourth of July during a celebration when the band is playing. When I heard the second one go off, I saw the smoke and saw the police running to the scene."

The chaos has begun, and it was so wild that Hood and most of the other racers and spectators didn't know nearly as much as the TV watchers did. They heard rumors that it was a gas leak or  a pipe bomb. That didn't lessen the feelings of anxiety among those, like Hood, who lacked information.

"It was almost a panicky feeling," he said. He finished the race about an hour before the terrorist attack. "Everyone was running and getting off the street, away from the scene. We knew something serious was going on, but I wasn't at the finish line so I didn't know for sure."

Hood has run 15 marathons. Five weeks before Monday's Boston Marathon he had a hamstring issue, so he wasn't in top shape when the race began. Still he finished the 26.2-mile race in 3:01 —not his best time ever, but fast enough to have allowed him to be long past the finish line and away from the bomb scene when the explosion happened.

"Everybody was telling me in calls and texts what a good thing it was that I was a fast runner," Hood said. "The thing about a marathon runner like me is that you'll do anything to finish a race, You'd find me face down in the street before I wouldn't finish one. I've never quit one before."

On the streets of Boston, his cell phone low on battery life, unsure what to do or where to proceed, Hood, like so many others that day, relied on the kindness of strangers. He started getting calls and texts almost immediately after the explosions asking if he were safe. His phone died, but a stranger invited him into her apartment to charge the phone and get some water and food. He was invited to use her phone to make some calls.

"I was able to call my mom back in Iowa," Hood said. "She didn't know what was going on. She hadn't been watching television."

Hood also was able to call a friend with whom he was staying in Boston and was due to meet at a restaurant after the race. They got together about an hour later.

Hood posted a message on his Facebook page to tell friends and family he was fine.

"The thing is, I was lucky I had finished the race for another reason. Those who hadn't finished were not able to get their bags with their stuff in it, including their cell phones. Your stuff is on the bus you came in on, so if you didn't finish the race you didn't have access to your phone so you could call family and friends."

Hood hoped to catch a flight home Tuesday night and be back in the office on Wednesday. He knew that might be a challenge since thousands of runners and spectators were all trying to leave the city from an airport where flights had been disrupted because of the terrorist attack.

"Yes, this is devastating," Hood said of Monday's events. "Life does go on. I feel thankful and blessed to have the love and support of all my family and friends. It was great to have access to my cell phone to call people and text people that I was OK. We should all pray for the three who died and the 140 who were injured."