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Crossing finish line just in time

Running the Boston Marathon last weekend turned into more of a roller coaster ride, at least emotionally, for Detroit Lakes native Jay Quam. 

Now a judge for Hennepin County, Quam was only a block and a half away from one of the bombs and two blocks away from the other when the blasts occurred.  Although that’s still much too close for anybody’s comfort, Quam was much, much closer only 10 minutes earlier.  He had just been in the explosion zone.

Jay Quam

“It was such a beautiful day, and  I had just passed the finish line and stopped,” said Quam, who hung out about 50 yards past the finish line to rest, stretch and call his wife and daughter, who were there cheering him on. 

“I started down the corridor to exit the area,” he said, feeling proud that he had just accomplished something he had wanted to do for so many years. 

Ten minutes later and a block and a half down the road, he met up with his wife and daughter.  That’s when it happened. 

“When the first one went off, it seemed like an unusual explosion and right away your mind starts processing what it could be and there are only a few possibilities because it wasn’t just a pop or anything less harmful than bomb,” said Quam. “But when the second one went off, it eliminated any other possibility — we knew the second one was a bomb, and then there were sirens coming from everywhere.”

Quam says although it was a scary situation, it wasn’t one where he began fearing the possibilities of additional bombs around him; he simply knew they should begin making their way away from the scene as first responders made their way in. 

“The emergency response was just amazing,” he said. “It’s scary, but it’s one of those things you probably get more scared afterwards when you begin to understand the extent of what happened.”

What had happened was the second bomb that went off did so at the same spot Quam had just been resting after running the marathon in what ended up being a good speed for him. 

“Anything can happen during a marathon to slow you down,” said Quam, “but this time, fortunately, it didn’t and I actually ran it in a pretty good time for me.”

Quam and his family were able to make it to their hotel and to the airport where they flew out that night. But once he did learn more details of what happened, the event that was proving surreal on so many levels got downright chilling as he realized just how easily it could have been him there in the explosion.

“It was like a game of deadly musical chairs,” said Quam. “Fortunately, I moved away before the bomb went off but that means someone else moved into it.” 

Quam says although he wants to be able to feel proud of what he had trained for a decade to accomplish, he can’t.

“The more you start to process everything, the more surreal it becomes because the Boston Marathon is an unbelievable celebration of runners who are reaching a lifelong dream, and their friends and family cheering them on, and just like that, it turns into a horrible tragedy, and it’s just so unsettling that it happened that way.”

Quam says although he planned on that run being his only brush with the Boston Marathon, “I was able to check it off my bucket list,” he said. He said he now feels he just might want to do it again.

“It’s a really special marathon that’s so well supported…a really unbelievable event,” said Quam, who says he’s not worried about the same thing happening again.  “I don’t think it’ll bring copycat type of events, and it seems law enforcement folks did everything they could do trying to protect such a huge, soft target like that with an incredible amount of people there.”

Memories of Boston

While many watch or read the news as details of the bombing slowly come out, the story is hitting a little closer to home for a few locals who have been a part of the historic event.

Frazee runner Jim Fredrickson has crossed that Boston finish line twice in his years of running marathons, once in 2005 and once just two years ago.

Fredrickson says because runners have to qualify to be able to participate in the historic, massive event, he has always felt privileged and proud to be able to say he’s ran the Boston Marathon. So when he first learned of the bombing, the news hit him hard. 

“It brought chills to my body because I’ve ran right past there, been at the finish line,” said Fredrickson, “and it made me angry to see that someone would take that event and make a tragedy out of it because it’s such a celebratory event for the runners and the family. The people of Boston all pitch in to make the event a really joyful experience.”

Jim Fredrickson

Fredrickson’s wife, Denise, and two other ladies from the lakes area were near the finish line in 2005 when he and his Detroit Lakes running partners, David Langworthy and Jeff Mohr, came across.

“And our wives were almost exactly across the street where that bomb went off,” said Fredrickson, “and so I put my mind and body in that place because that’s where they said they would meet us.”

“I never felt unsafe there,” said Denise Fredrickson. “We would jump onto these subway trains that we’d squeeze into, and it would stop, we’d jump off, find the guys as they’d go by and we’d cheer and holler and take pictures, then jump back on and go again, and you’d never ever feel unsafe because it wouldn’t even enter your mind.  Everybody is there for the marathon.”

“There wasn’t a part of the race course where there weren’t people cheering,” said Langworthy, who ran the marathon in 2005, “and it was multiple people deep, especially the closer you got into town and towards the finish line.”

Langworthy, who had trained his whole life to run that race, says he also remembers the intense security they had in place there. 

“Once you get across the finish line there is a block to two blocks where nobody gets in or out,” said Langworthy, who says the only non-runner he remembers seeing in that area was then Senator John Kerry, who was allowed to meet his daughter at the finish line.  She finished right behind Langworthy.

“So I’m sure he had special privilege, but other than that, security was very tight,” he said, adding that now as he watches the images of the bombing scene, he can’t help but think about where he and his family would have been at that time in the race.

“I would have finished 15 minutes before that, and my family would have been making their way down to the finish line,” said Langworthy. “So that was my initial thought when I heard about this.”

Although knee problems will prevent Langworthy from ever running the Boston Marathon again, his fellow runner, Fredrickson, says he is beginning to feel the desire to do Boston again the year he turns 65.

“I just don’t understand the purpose of killing and maiming innocent people, and I hope they bring to justice whoever did it,” he said. “But what happened will not deter me from doing it again. It is just such a source of pride doing the Boston Marathon.”