Ricky Austin, the coach of Spring Garden High School’s basketball teams, and Tom Schuberth, an assistant men’s basketball coach at Jacksonville State University, both ran in today’s race.
Austin, who spoke with The Star this afternoon, said he had already left the race and was back in his hotel room when he started receiving calls asking about the explosions.
“We quickly turned on the TV to see what was going on,” Austin said. “There’s a lot of ‘what-if’ questions now.”
In a text message to The Star just after 5 p.m., Schuberth said he was safe.
“Doing fine. Very lucky,” the text read. “Thanks for checking. Less than a half mile away.”
Greg Seitz, JSU’s sports information director, said Schuberth had also texted him to say he was safe.
Two bombs exploded in the packed streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing two people and injuring more than 50 others in a terrifying scene of shattered glass, billowing smoke, bloodstained pavement and severed limbs, authorities told the Associated Press.
Austin’s sister-in-law, JSU softball coach Jana McGinnis, said Austin’s wife, Dana, contacted her after the race to tell her Austin had finished with a time of 3 hours and 17 minutes, about 45 minutes before the first explosion. At that time, Dana Austin had been sitting in a grandstand near the finish line where the explosion later hit, McGinnis said.
Ricky Austin said that before the race officials asked his wife to move from her seat near the finish line to check the area. Police had bomb-sniffing dogs checking out the area as well, he said.
While preparing for large races, Austin said, he’s often thought about what might happen if someone tried to attack a group of runners or spectators, and said he thinks today’s events will be a starting point for a change in the way safety is handled at racing events.
“I think our sport is changing, right now,” Austin said. “There’s going to have to be a change in the way large, outdoor events like this are run.”
Dennis Dunn, production and circulation director for The Star and a former director of Anniston’s Woodstock 5K, which attracted 1,500 runners last year, said road races generally aren’t considered places where a large-scale attack might occur.
“You never think someone is going to try and attack a group of runners,” Dunn said. “We talk about football games, and baseball games, how those might be a place for someone to attack a lot of people, but you really don’t think about races.”
Dunn said he’s run larger marathons where security is tight. In the case of the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., which he ran two years ago, no one but runners and officials were allowed anywhere near the finish line.
“I would think Boston is the same way,” Dunn said. “It’s sad to think someone would do something like that.”
The Woodstock 5K’s current director, Hayley Gregg, said she hasn’t started the safety planning process of the race, but would be meeting with the Anniston Police and Parks and Recreation departments in the coming months. She said she didn’t know if the events Monday in Boston will alter safety preparations for the Anniston event.
Mike Poe, director of this weekend’s Noble Street Festival, said the event hires armed security guards for the festival in addition to Anniston police officers who patrol the area throughout the day.
“We’ve never had to use them, but we always want to be safe,” Poe said. “Of course, with large, outdoor events like this, there’s no way to be 100 percent covered, even with all that security.”
Sports Writer Al Muskewitz contributed reporting.
Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.