Runner Bill Iffig never expected to gain international attention running this year’s Boston Marathon. But the 78-year old from Washington State was the runner pictured laying on the street, knocked off his feet when the first of two bombs unexpectedly exploded near the finish line for the famous competition.
Iffig recalls that the shock wave of the blast turned his legs into “noodles” and caused him to collapse in a heap on the street.
“The shockwaves must have hit my body and my legs started going to noodles and I knew I was going down. So I laid on the blacktop. I wasn’t unconscious at any time. I woke up, became alert, a little later and looked everything over and it looked okay,” Iffig tells Steve Levy of ESPN.
Upon realizing that he was not seriously injured, Iffig, who was a short 15 feet from the race’s finish line when the bomb went off, enlisted the aid of a race assistant in order to continue walking to make it officially across the finish line.
“So I made an attempt to get up and as I did that one of the assistants on the finish line saw what I was doing and came over and gave me a hand. And so he walked me on over to the finish line so I could finish.”
Iffig acknowledged that the weather and his own personal race time this year was much better than last year, but that the tragedy that occurred shortly before 3 p.m. completely spoiled the race day for him. Iffig reports that at no time after the bomb blast did he lose consciousness and even declined an offer of a wheelchair to help transport him to the hotel where he was meeting up with his spouse.
“Then he said he’d take me over and give me a wheelchair ride out of here but at that time I said, ‘I don’t think I need it, the hotel’s about six blocks away so I can get up there,'”
The dedicated Marathon runner declined offers of help and walked the six blocks to his hotel.
“So I made an attempt to get up and as I did that one of the assistants on the finish line saw what I was doing and came over and gave me a hand. And so he walked me on over to the finish line so I could finish. And then he said he’d take me over and give me a wheelchair ride out of here but at that time I said, ‘I don’t think I need it, the hotel’s about six blocks away so I can get up there.'”
The runner’s son, Mark Iffrig, of Seattle, told The Associated Press he was tracking his father’s race progress online and didn’t realize what had happened until he went on Facebook to post about his dad finishing the race. He quickly turned on the TV and called his dad.
“It’s horrible. He said it was quite a concussive blast. He was a little dazed. Someone helped him up,” said Mark Iffrig, adding he recognized his father from a widely distributed Boston Globe photo showing him on the ground, surrounded by police officers and race officials. “He was only about 10 feet from the finish line.”
Iffrig said his father is an avid runner who has raced in a number of marathons.
“He’s a hell of a runner,” he said. “He’s run a lot and he’s fast.”
On The Web:
A 78-Year-Old Marathoner Who Was Knocked Down By The Explosions Got Up And Finished The Race
Boston Marathon: The 78-year-old runner knocked down by blast