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Queens marathon runners complete race minutes before blasts

By TimesLedger Staff

Several Queens runners had finished the Boston Marathon Monday shortly before two explosions went off at the race’s finish line, killing at least two people and injuring 23, the Boston Police Department said.

Both Astoria residents Ben Hauck and Rob Gunther described hearing loud booming sounds and instinctively thought of a truck ramming into a raised roadway.

“If you are ever on Astoria Boulevard near the truck route, a truck will hit a bump and there is a very loud sound. This sounded like an extra large truck hit something,” Hauck said by phone from his hotel room in Boston.

Hauck, who was running the Boston race for the second time and has completed more than 10 marathons in total, said he heard only one of the two blasts and an unsettled feeling developed in his stomach. He glanced at several police officers on the street corner, and they also seemed alarmed by the noise, which had originated near Copley Square downtown.

Gunther had met up with his wife and parents and was walking near the finish line at the time of the blasts.

“We heard two booms, and my mom said, “Is that an explosion?” said Gunther, whose immediate reaction to shrug off the noise.

After returning to his hotel room, he saw news about the explosions on TV.

“We have been glued to our phones ever since,” he said by phone on the ride back to New York.

Gunther, 28, who was running his seventh marathon, said he eerily thought while jammed into the packed staging area, “What if something bad were to happen?”

However, both Astoria residents said that the explosions would not keep them from running in future marathons.

Kew Gardens resident William Reilly, also known as Backward Bill, was uninjured in the blasts, a consulting company that had worked with him confirmed.

Reilly, who suffers from cerebral palsy, has competed in more than 28 marathons in his wheelchair, riding backwards and pushing with his feet. According to the marathon’s website, he had not yet finished the race.

Lynn Henry is with the Alley Pond Striders, a borough running club that sent a handful of participants to the Boston Marathon.

According to Henry, by about 7 p.m. the leadership had still not accounted for all of the club’s members.

“You can’t through on cell phones,” she said. “It is very scary.”

Henry said she did get in touch with her niece, who had trained for the New York Marathon and then decided to run the Boston race for charity to help her hometown of Long Beach.

Peter Macari from Long Island City told NY1 he was in shock after hearing the explosions, although he had already crossed the finish line.

“These are races that really bring people together,” he said. “I could never imagine something like this could even happen.”

Throughout the city Monday afternoon, the NYPD ramped up visible police presence at major transit hubs, including Grand Central and Penn stations, according to NY1.

“We’re stepping up security at hotels and other prominent locations in the city through deployment of the NYPD’s critical response vehicles until more about the explosion is learned,” said Paul Browne, the NYPD’s chief spokesman.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said via its official Twitter feed that it was beefing up MTA police presence on Metro North and Long Island Railroad lines, and confirmed that the NYPD is keeping a close watch on the city’s subways.

Huack and Gunther said many of their friends and family have been contacting them in the aftermath to make sure they were OK.

“I seemed to have the information before most of my friends had heard the news,” Hauck wrote in an email. “I texted, tweeted, emailed, and did maybe a few phone calls.”

Gunther updated his Facebook status to alert loved ones that he was safe.

“It’s saddening and angering, it’s attacking presumably innocent people,” Hauck said.

Reach the newsroom by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4545.

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