Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 18, 2013

Tazewell woman crosses finish line 11 minutes before first explosion

By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

TAZEWELL, Va. — On Monday afternoon, Lee Hunter crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon with a time of 3 hours and 57 minutes.

“Everything was perfect,” Hunter said. “It’s always a happy ... happy day in Boston.” This year marked the 18th time that she has run the Boston Marathon. “You can see by the clock at the finish line that the first bomb went off at the 4:09 mark in the race,” she said. “I missed it by 11 minutes.”

After crossing the finish line, she got a blanket and was cooling down after running the 26.2 miles of the race. Her husband and daughter  — Billy Hunter and Campbell Hunter — were watching the race from about a half-block away from where the explosion occurred. She paused during the race long enough to kiss them both before heading on to the finish line. After she passed, her husband and daughter left the course to return to their lodgings and wait for Lee after she finished the race. Lee Hunter was receiving her “finisher medal” when she heard the explosion.

“You could feel it in your heart,” she said. “It was just such a powerful explosion. It was obvious it was a bomb. About 10 seconds, later, we heard the second blast and everyone took off running. We didn’t want to get caught there if there was another bomb.”

Hunter, 52, started running when she was 23 years old. She qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon at the 2012 Chicago Marathon last October. All Boston Marathon competitors have to qualify at another race before earning the opportunity to compete in the Boston Marathon.

“I had never even heard of terrorist attacks until September 11,” Hunter said. “I think this will make people come back stronger than ever. I saw so much compassion there. People were letting other people into their rooms to change clothes when they couldn’t get back to their rooms. I didn’t see any of the people who were hurt.”

Hunter said that she runs for her mind. “I don’t run for physical conditioning. I do it mostly for my mind,” she said.

“I’m going to go back,” she vowed. “It’s a great day ... a happy day. Everyone is out to see the 27,000 runners in the race. Having a bomb go off? That was something that I never thought about. It was unbelievable.”

She said she was thankful that her family was safe, and added: “I was sure glad to be back in Tazewell,” she said. “Glad to be home.”

She predicted that the runners will return to Boston for the 2014 Boston Marathon even stronger than they were this year.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com