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13 minutes from marathon blast
Billy Nicols of Rumford crossed the finish line during the recent Boston Marathon just 13 minutes before the first terrorist blast.
RUMFORD -- Like most of us, Billy Nicols of Rumford watched and read about the events unfold leading to the apprehension of those responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings.
But he had another reason to be interested -- Nicols was one of 202 runners from Maine who competed in the marathon. Working in the woods for Nicols Bros. Logging gave him a lot of time to think about the fact he had crossed the finish line just 13 minutes ahead of that first blast.
"Yeah, that was too close for comfort," said Nicols, noting he was just a couple hundred yards away when the Patriots Day incident occurred.
"The streets were full. When the first bomb hit, people were just looking at each other. Then when the second one hit, everyone knew. Then the police cars and ambulances went by. It was choatic," he said.
Nicols said his first concern were his wife, Pam, their daughter, Stephanie, and his niece, Brenna Myles, who went to the event with him. At the time of the first explosion, "I had turned off from Boylston Street towards the meeting area where my family was waiting. We got into a cab and got out of there, about 20 minutes out of Boston where we were staying."
From there, they immediately drove back home. He noted that fortunately, none of them had to witness the carnage resulting from the bombings.
Nicols, 51, qualified for the Boston Marathon by finishing 3:29 in a qualifying race held in Portland. This was his fifth marathon, which included his second Boston Marathon.
He ran in Boston in 2011, but he cramped up and didn't finish with a satisfactory time for him. And this time, Nicols was running with a partially torn meniscus in his knee.
"I just wanted to finish under four hours," he noted. His time was 3:56:07.
Learning from his first Boston Marathan, Nicols said he start out a bit slower, pacing himself a little better over the 26.2-mile course.
"I ran with a couple of different people. There's a lot of good people here," noted Nicols, adding that this was a good experience until the attacks.
He said he still wants to run in a third Boston Marathon, but indicated he will likely wait until he reaches 55, which is another age division and present an slower qualifying time.
Nicols says running, for him, is addictive. "You also meet a lot of nice people and everybody pulls for each other."
He runs year round and before a marathon, ramps up his distance over an 18-week period.
Nicols, winner of last summer's Moontide 5K, also like to take his runs with people like Jeff Arsenault and Steve Day.
To sum up the Boston Marathon, Nicols said, "It's a once in a lifetime experience."