Singaporean runner escapes Boston Marathon blasts

Singaporean runner escapes Boston Marathon blasts

After last week's tragic Boston Marathon explosions, theAsianparent catches up with Jonathan Kang, a Singaporean who took part in the 2013 race. Find out here what he felt during and after the event.

Photo courtesy of Mr Jonathan Kang (Facebook)

Photo courtesy of Mr Jonathan Kang (Facebook)

International participant, Jonathan Kang of Singapore who finished the race at a personal best of 3 hours 4.21 minutes, approximately an hour before the tragic blasts at the prestigious Boston Marathon, shares with theAsianparent.com how he escaped the explosions, what he felt as the tragedy unfolded and how the life-threatening ordeal has left its eternal mark.

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Mr Kang and his wife, who met him at the finish line were planning to stick around for a bit after he finished the race but changed their minds due to a drop in temperature and the cold weather outside. Deciding then to head back to their hotel located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the husband-and-wife team only found out about the explosions when they turned on the news back at their room. He was preparing for his departure from the United States back to Singapore at the point of this interview; the destination which welcomed his safe landing over the weekend.

theAsianparent (TAP): What is your inspiration behind your participation in marathon races?

Mr Jonathan Kang (MJK): After participating several years in local marathons, last year I decided to set a new focused challenge for myself — to complete the World Marathon Majors over the next 5 years. These comprised some of the top-ranked marathons worldwide: Boston, Chicago, New York, Tokyo, Berlin, London.

TAP: What was the first thing that came to mind when you heard about the blasts?

MJK: My wife and I were contemplating to stick around to take photos, watch the event and go to a nearby cafe for a much-needed drink. Finally, we decided to head back our hotel since it was very cold. And I was without a jacket at the time; only a T-shirt and jeans.

Once we reached our hotel in Cambridge (just opposite the Charles River), I received a text from a fellow runner that explosions had taken place at the finish line. Immediately, I switched on the TV. To our horror, we were confronted with the footage of the dual bomb blasts at the finish, with headlines reading “2 dead and 23 injured”. This was absolutely shocking!

I mean, we were just at that very place 30 minutes prior! I could imagine a riot, but a bomb blast and two bombs at that? It was just so surreal to us; we were just in horror and shock. Even as we watched the news, we still could not digest that this was actually happening and unfolding before our eyes!

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TAP: How do you think you would have reacted if you were at the scene of the bombings?

MJK: As we watched the news coverage of the bombings, it took a while before we realised how fortunate we were to have left the scene before the explosions. It was such a close shave for us! A near death encounter. There was definitely a likelihood of that happening had we stayed on at the scene.

Had we made the convenient decision to stay, I think the unimaginable would have happened to us! This is because we would have been in one of the cafes along the finish line. Everyone and everything would have been in chaos.

For me, my first thoughts would be the safety of my wife. If anything was to have happened to her at the scene of the blasts, I would regret for my entire life for asking her to await me at the finish area. This being the first time for an overseas run that I’ve specifically asked her to wait out for me, I probably wouldn’t forgive myself — I’m sure this echoes the thoughts of many runners who had their families, relatives and friends supporting them at the finish line…

Like the rest of the runners and spectators at the scene, it would be instinctive for us to be helping those injured around us. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a local or not, whether you know them or not — everyone affected deserves any form of help and a chance of survival.

To catch a glimpse of the tragic event and for comments from survivors, watch this video:

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TAP: How extensive a mark has this marathon left on your life?

MJK: I’ve completed almost 30 marathons, but none like this one. Apart from the 2011 Standard Chartered Marathon where I collapsed and nearly died from a heatstroke, this Boston Marathon is absolutely the “most memorable” one; I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

I still cannot fathom how such a horrific act could take place in a city like Boston (a largely peaceful student community); at such an event (an international, prestigious, historical, sporting, non-political, family event); to such a crowd of supporters (families bringing out their toddlers and children, the elderly coming out to cheer, the sick sitting on wheelchairs by the roads to lend inspiration); to such a group of participants (26,000 runners from all over the world, of different nationalities, background, religions, ethnicity, cultures, languages, coming together for a single goal — to run).

Just being able to enter and participate in the Boston Marathon has been my running dreams come true. It is sweet to have completed the historical route. But having the finisher medal and clocking a good timing all have lost their significance in light of this tragedy. This is not the manner a “marathon” should end for the Boston Marathoners. This tragic event and the images of those injured and lost their lives will forever be inked in my memory — a run that changed our lives.

I’m deeply grateful for the enormous showers of concern for us, coming in from all our friends and loved ones throughout this week.

I end with this quote: “If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon” ~ Emil Zátopek (winner of three gold medals at 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki) — this quote has literally taken on a whole new meaning for me!

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