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South King County marathoner barely misses explosions in Boston
Dennis Zaborac insists he's no courageous survivor of Monday's harrowing, bomb-marred Boston Marathon.
Just one of 27,000 runners who has a story to tell about a prestigious race rocked by two deadly explosions near the finish line.
The 64-year-old Kent man — a masters marathoner who has gone the 26.2-mile distance in races throughout the world — never got to finish his third Boston Marathon.
Something went terribly wrong as Zaborac passed the 25-mile mark and was working on the last half-mile of his run, about four or five minutes from the finish line. That's when the explosions — 12 seconds and 100 yards apart — ripped into the crowds gathered for the finale of a traditional marathon that wound through the streets of Boston.
The bombings killed three people and injured more than 170.
Zaborac was fortunate.
"I heard the boom and thought nothing of it," said Zaborac, adding he didn't feel the explosions, didn't see the damage. "Personally, I (was) thinking maybe thunder. ... Until the cops started hopping over the barricades ... I knew something was wrong."
As officials began to divert runners from the finish, Zaborac realized the race was over. His race watch stopped prematurely at four hours, 12 minutes. He was hoping to finish in 4:20. A few years back, he had covered the race in a personal-best 3:39.
Zaborac escaped the crowd and confusion as thousands of runners began to collect behind him on the congested street.
He had hoped to gather his bag of belongings that awaited him beyond the finish line, but he never reached them. It had become a secured area, a crime scene.
Without money or a cellphone, Zaborac had to resort to some drastic measures in order to return to his hotel in suburban Quincy, about 10 miles from Boston.
"For the first time in my life, I had to panhandle," he said.
He was able to scrounge enough money from some generous people for bus fare and a trip back to his hotel.
When he reached his room, there were plenty of messages.
"You don't know how many friends you have until something like this happens. I had countless phone calls, emails waiting there for me," he said.
Family and friends had tracked Zaborac's race progress online, knowing he was nearing the finish line at the time of the explosions. He had crossed the 25-mile marker, but had not finished the race.
"They knew I was in that window, and that's what got a lot of people concerned," Zaborac said.
Zaborac, like many others, missed their return flights home. Originally scheduled to arrive in Seattle on Monday night, Zaborac was expected back today.
No doubt, relieved family and friends will eagerly see his familiar face back at Kent Bowl, a place that he and his father, Jack Zaborac, have operated for more than 50 years.
Like so many others, Zaborac's thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and loved ones.
Sitting in his hotel room on Tuesday, Zaborac had seen enough of a city fraught in the aftermath of a tragedy — a media horde covering the story, flags flying at half-staff, a full show of police protection.
"It's like a war zone. ... All around the city they have a huge security presence," he said.
Zaborac has raced in 35 marathons — from London to Tokyo, Berlin to New York City. This summer, the Navy veteran plans to return to Vietnam, where he briefly served during the war, to run a marathon.
He also plans to return to Boston next year and run.
Mark Klaas is the regional editor of the Auburn and Kent Reporter, sister papers of the Mercer Island Reporter.