Kalispell Runner Returns Home Safely After Boston Marathon Bombing

By Beacon Staff

Jill Hinrichs made a personal goal after she began running again a few years ago. Someday the Kalispell resident wanted to participate in the iconic Boston Marathon.

Dating back to 1897, the Boston Marathon is the oldest and one of the most revered annual marathons in the world. Every third Monday in April, on Patriots’ Day, the event attracts half a million spectators who line the city’s historic streets to hand out cups of water and cheer on more than 23,000 runners.

To qualify for Boston, Hinrichs ran three days a week, through winter snow and spring rain. When she wasn’t running, she was at the gym.

She made it to Boston in 2011, and again in 2012.

“It’s just an amazing race,” she said. “It’s a really great city … There’s amazing support. You’re never alone, with spectators everywhere.”

Hinrichs, 46, qualified yet again this year and flew to Boston this month. Her goal, as always, was to run hard and surpass her previous best time.

On the morning of April 15, before the start of the race, “I was nervous I wouldn’t have a good run,” she said. “I wasn’t feeling it.”

But once the gun went off and runners streamed forward, Hinrichs’ nerves settled. After 26.2 miles, she crossed the finish line in just over three hours and 38 minutes, her best time ever by almost six minutes.

“I was very, very happy and excited,” she said.

Barely 30 minutes later, Hinrichs was four blocks from the finish line, gathering her gear, when the first explosion erupted. Twelve seconds later, a second blast echoed in the street corridor.

“When the first one went off, I knew it was bad but I figured it was a generator or something accidental,” she said. “When the second one went off, I knew it was an explosion that was intentional. Then it got nerve-wracking. Are they coming down the line? Are they everywhere? What’s going on? It scared people really badly. Nobody knew what to do.”

The bombings on April 15 killed three people and wounded more than 180 others.

Kalispell resident Richard Briles also completed the race unharmed, along with more than 30 other runners from Montana.

Authorities identified two suspects, brothers living in the area, who were believed to be responsible for the terrorist attack.

By the time a massive manhunt for the suspects broke out April 18, Hinrichs was home in Kalispell. Even though she was told she could take time off from her job, she returned to work. A standing ovation greeted her.

“A lot of people were watching and were worried who I didn’t even know,” she said. “That was cool to see all the support. I’m very grateful for it.”

Last week Hinrichs was still sorting out her emotions, grappling with anger while trying to understand why someone would commit such a tragedy.

“This is something I love doing. But it’s tainted. I’m really angry that they did this,” she said. “I don’t understand solving problems that way. I’ll never wrap my head around why you’d do that.”

She does know this, though. Her sights are already set on next year’s Boston Marathon.

“Yes I’m going to go. I’ll do everything in my power to go,” she said. “My wish and my hope is that in 2014 people will still come out and enjoy the race, if anything in honor of those people who were hurt.”

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