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Long Island

For some at LI Marathon, echoes of Boston

Long Island runner Nora Johnson, 60, who ran

Long Island runner Nora Johnson, 60, who ran the Boston Marathon, prepares for the start of the Long Island Marathon. (May 5, 2013) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Reminders of the Boston Marathon bombings were evident throughout Sunday's Long Island Marathon, from the circling police helicopters to airport-style bag checks and the 26 seconds of silence observed at the race's start.

But they had special resonance for a group of Long Island runners who experienced the tragedy at the finish line April 15 and were competitors or spectators Sunday.

Kevin Beach, 31, a kindergarten special education teacher from West Sayville and a runner in Boston, had to first overcome nerves to even watch the Long Island race with his brother, Brice, 27.

"I honestly wasn't ready to come by myself," he said. "That's why I'm not at the finish line . . . This year I elected to go nowhere near the finish line."

He doesn't think he'll ever forget the explosions he heard as he was about to board the Boston subway that day, Beach said. His wife and their two daughters, 3 and 1, were with him, just a block away from the explosions.

But standing along the course Sunday and yelling himself hoarse made him feel "better inside," he said.

Yvonne Leippert, 45, a nurse educator from Coram, said she remembers the euphoria of finishing the Boston race and how it all "came crashing down when I saw the bombs."

The pride and purpose she felt after months of training were eclipsed in that instant by a feeling of helplessness and confusion. She heard the explosions after she had finished the race and was about a half-a-block away. "I'm trained as a nurse, I should be able to help . . . but you couldn't get back there" to the Boston finish line, she said. "At that point I didn't really know what was going on."

She finished the Long Island Marathon, but the Boston memories haven't left her. Watching television news or reading the newspaper since the bombing makes her uneasy, she said. The steam venting from a pipe in the ground before the three-mile marker Sunday reminded her uncomfortably of smoke from the bombs three weeks ago.

Nora Johnson, 60, a school board member from Port Washington who ran Sunday's half-marathon and the full 26.2-mile race in Boston, said she has consumed every piece of news she could find about that day and the investigation since.

She's replayed her memories of what happened that day, analyzing and dissecting what she saw and heard repeatedly, she said. Competing on Long Island was almost a relief. "I felt good. I felt safe. It was a pleasure to be back out there," she said.

For some, running was an act of defiance. "It's always going to be in the back of my mind that something is going to happen," said Wil Widman, 48, a software teacher for Citigroup and a Boston competitor who ran Sunday's half-marathon. "That's what terrorists want us to do. They want us to be afraid, to not do the things we want to do . . . I'm still going to run."

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