Scotts Valley High School alumna Erica Soma was on pace to finish the 26-mile Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, in just under 4 hours and 30 minutes.
At the 4:09 mark, and less than a mile from the finish line, Soma, 23, saw several ambulances pass her, followed by emergency personnel.
What she didn’t know is that two bombs had exploded at 2:50 p.m. EDT near the finish line of the 117th annual marathon, where her mother and best friend were waiting.
At the time, she thought someone had suffered a medical emergency at the finish, so she kept plodding along, tired from 25 miles in the afternoon sun.
Then movement stopped. The course had been blocked by law enforcement.
Someone pulled her to the side and asked if she had heard what had happened. She hadn’t.
“It was definitely a moment of panic,” Soma said by phone Wednesday, April 17. “It was more than a moment. There was a lot of panic. You could see people going through a realization of what happened.”
She knew that her mother, Winona Soma, was waiting near the finish line and that her best friend, Nicholas Susaro, was somewhere beyond with food and water.
“My immediate reaction was ‘Oh my God’ — my mother was right there,” she said.
What exactly happened is still being fleshed out by Boston police and FBI investigators. But what they do know is that at least three people were killed and more than 170 were injured by exploding pressure cookers that were reportedly packed with nails, ball bearings and other metal scraps.
Those confirmed dead are an 8-year-old boy named Martin Richard from Boston; a 29-year-old woman, Krystle Campbell of Medford, Mass.; and a Boston University graduate student and Chinese citizen identified by the Shenyang Evening News as Lu Lingzi.
As of press time Wednesday, no one had been arrested in connection to the bombings, according to the Associated Press.
After the course was blocked, a woman offered Soma food and water. After standing around for 15 minutes, Soma asked a nearby police officer if she could leave since she had a set a meet-up point with her mother and friend before the race.
“I went to the meeting area, still really upset,” Soma said.
When she arrived, she reunited with her mother and friend, who were uninjured.
“(Nicholas) saw it happen,” Soma said. “He thought it was fireworks at first, and then realized it was a bomb. He just froze, because he saw two go off and didn’t know if any more would (detonate).”
The Boston Marathon — which had more than 26,000 runners and hundreds of thousands of spectators each year — was the fifth marathon for the 2007 Scotts Valley High School graduate. It was her second consecutive year running in Boston.
After graduating from a master’s program at Northeastern University in Boston, Soma became a personal trainer at an all-women’s gym located several blocks from the finish line of the race. The tragedy truly hit Soma when she went to work Tuesday, April 16, and a woman at the gym came hugged her, and said she just needed to talk.
“I think I a lot of it is complete shock,” Soma said. “Even if you’re not a marathon runner, it’s almost an honor to be there. I think it’s just a shock that someone would want to ruin it and hurt somebody there.”
Soma said she’s determined to run and finish the race next year.
“It’s really inspiring to see how many people are coming together,” she said.
According to the results, at least one other local runner participated in the race. Lynn Olavarri, 56, of Scotts Valley, completed the race in 3:51.25, good for 14,171 overall and 81st in her age group.
Daniel McKinnon, 46, of Scotts Valley was signed up, but it appears did not participate, according to the results.
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