Bristol runner moved by bombing tragedy

BOSTON — Monday should have been one of the best days in Meghan Lout’s life.
The accomplished Bristol runner was enjoying her third Boston Marathon under ideal running conditions with her mom, boyfriend and pals cheering her on.
“The race was fantastic and it was a beautiful day,” Lout, 34, recalled on Wednesday. “It was a wonderful atmosphere.”
That atmosphere was shattered in the blink of an eye.
About hour after Lout had concluded the 26.2-mile race in an impressive 3:02.42, two improvised bombs detonated, sending shrapnel into unsuspecting spectators near the finish line in the heart of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. One of those bombs exploded into a bleacher area where Lout’s mom, Leona Florek, and boyfriend, Andy Jadrnak, had been sitting. Were it not for her stellar time, her loved ones could tragically have been among the three dead and more than 170 wounded.
“It was like the world stopped moving,” Lout said of the immediate aftermath of the bomb detonations, which she heard and felt about a block away while walking back to her hotel.
“I felt so sick.”
Lout had run the race with a friend from Texas, who finished in 3:18. They had met up, with the rest of their group, at a designated family meeting area near the finish line.
“I was tired, but I felt good,” said Lout, who had grabbed some food and was looking forward to changing out of her sweat-soaked running attire. They started walking slowly back to their hotel when they heard two loud reverberations.
“I looked at my boyfriend and said, ‘What the hell was that?’” she recalled, thinking at first it might have been some fireworks. But the billowing smoke and smell of gunpowder said otherwise. Their worst fears were confirmed by a phone call from a friend near the scene who said some bombs had detonated and that they should leave the area.
“It was a whirlwind at this point,” Lout said of her emotions. She described an almost surreal silence in the immediate aftermath of the explosions, pierced only by the sounds of ambulance, police and fire sirens.
Lout’s thoughts quickly harkened back to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Lout’s sister was living in New York City at the time. She recalled her frustration at not being able to reach her by phone — a glitch that also ironically occurred right after the Boston Marathon bomb blasts.
The group continued walking through downtown Boston and finally ducked into a coffee shop where many people were still unaware of the catastrophe and related rescue efforts taking place only a few blocks away. A man came in and announced the news to stunned customers.
After consuming a hot drink, Lout and her companions made haste to their hotel, where people had gathered around TVs to watch the unfolding rescue efforts.
“The race didn’t matter any more; nothing mattered except what had just happened,” Lout said. “The devastation was heartbreaking. I can’t believe it happened.”
But she was pleased to see the stories of courage and heroism in the aftermath of the explosions. Lout was inspired by people who rushed to help the many injured people who were whisked away from the blast scene on gurneys and in wheelchairs.
“It was very moving,” she said.
Lout stayed the night at her mom’s house in western Massachusetts. She and Andy returned to Bristol on Tuesday. She will continue her job as a wildlife biologist for the Waterbury-based company WEST Inc., and will keep on running in hopes of qualifying for a spot on the U.S. Olympic marathon team.
Asked if she will ever run another Boston Marathon, she replied without hesitation.
“There is no doubt in my mind,” she said.

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