Anna Ackerman, of Augusta, completed her first Boston Marathon on Monday in 3 hours, 8 minutes, celebrated with her family at the finish line, and then walked about one block away to a massage center set up by race organizers.

Soon after the 24-year-old got onto the massage cot, the building was evacuated. Her mother, waiting outside, had heard a blast and felt the ground shake, and knew right away something had happened.

Ackerman returned to her hotel with her mother and sister.

“A lot of people were in tears,” Ackerman said Tuesday. “There was a woman shrieking on the phone. Everyone else was glued to the TV. It was very surreal.”

Ackerman said the deadly bombings on Monday left her sad and frightened, but the terror has failed to destroy the joy Ackerman felt when she finished the race. Ackerman hopes she will be at the marathon again next year, along with many others who are “even more enthusiastic and stronger” following Monday’s attack.

On Tuesday, many people were filled with questions and doubts about the explosions and what could be done to better ensure the safety of athletes and spectators.

Ackerman doesn’t think there are any substantial changes to security or marathon procedure that can guarantee anyone’s safety.

“There’s nothing you could do to prevent such a thing like this from happening,” she said. “No matter how much security you have on the course there’s always a chance for some kind of act of terror. It’s really a shame we live in a world like that, but I don’t think you could do much more.”

According to the race organizer, the Boston Athletic Association, Ackerman was one of 202 Maine residents registered for the Boston Marathon, where two explosions that are now under investigation by police occurred Monday. She is also among area runners who said that while this year’s marathon was overshadowed by tragedy, they hope the spirit of the race can be restored next year.

Safety for runners and spectators at large races such as Boston’s, where about 23,000 runners participated and hundreds of thousands of others came to watch, has come under scrutiny in the hours since the explosions. Portland’s Maine Marathon is no exception.

“It will definitely be a topic of discussion. It’s too early to tell but we will need to discuss if and what measures can be put in place,” said Bob Aube, co-director of the Maine Marathon in Portland. The race is scheduled for Oct. 6.

Aube said it can be difficult to provide safety at road races because of the large area they cover and the large crowds they draw. The Maine Marathon, held in conjunction with a half-marathon and relay race, draws about 3,000 people each year, said Aube.

“It’s a much smaller scale. Boston has a lot of resources that they put into security and safety personnel,” he said.

Police with bomb-sniffing dogs can be part of security measures at larger races, but even then there is no guarantee of safety, Aube said.

“Streets are always closed off, but still the area around the roads is always open to spectators,” he said.

Hall-Dale Elementary School physical education teacher and Richmond resident Joe Viselli said Tuesday that his time of 3 hours, 5 minutes, was good enough to qualify to run in next year’s marathon.

Although the 35-year-old said he plans to run again despite Monday’s carnage, Viselli is given pause by the thought of harm coming to his family, who watched in a busy area near the 25-mile mark in Kenmore Square.

After the race he met up at the finish line with his wife Jessica, 8-year-old son Max, 6-year-old daughter Lyla, and other friends and they went to a restaurant a couple of blocks away.

“I’d love to run it again,” Viselli said Tuesday. “I wouldn’t let (the explosions) stop me. I would probably be more concerned about having my family come and watch, especially in that populated of an area. What else can you do? You can’t change everything you do. That danger can be there anywhere. It’s always in the back of your mind. But you can’t stop doing things like that.”

While organizers can’t make city streets any safer, it’s important for spectators to be vigilant, Viselli said.

John Rodrigue and Ward Boudreau spent the weekend together with family and friends before finishing the race just 11 minutes apart. Rodrigue, formerly of Augusta, and Boudreau, of Gardiner, were about a block away when the bombs exploded at the finish line.

“While we were getting ready to board the train we heard the blast,” said Rodrigue. “We thought it was cannon fire.”

He learned about the bomb explosions when a family member called to check on him.

Boudreau, 37, said a passenger with a cellphone Internet connection provided a group of passengers regular updates on what was taking place at the finish line. Boudreau thought about his wife and brother who had been standing in the area just a short time earlier.

“It was really quiet,” Boudreau said of the train. “The tension and reality started to settle in. We were very thankful that we were on our way out.”

Rodrigue, 48, said that between runners and volunteers he knew about 100 people involved in the race — they’re all safe. Still, the tragedy of it all invades the joy Rodrigue should feel at completing his first Boston Marathon.

Even so, Rodrigue and Boudreau are both committed to running the race again next year.

“I don’t want it to change who I am,” Boudreau said. “When I run it next year it won’t necessarily be about making the fastest race. It will be about something different. I guess it will change us no matter what.”

For Viselli, the effect of the bombings seems more immediate than long-term.

“Running is something I do every day, like brushing my teeth or taking a shower,” he said. “But at least for now I won’t be able to do it with a smile. I don’t think runners can feel anything but shock and dismay right now.”

Ackerman, meanwhile, said she bettered her personal best in a marathon by one minute.

But that didn’t account for her exhilaration when she crossed the finish line.

“I saw some friends and told them that was the best race I’d ever run in my life,” she said. “Not because of the time, but the crowd and enthusiasm the entire 26 miles was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It was as if you weren’t even doing the work. You were being powered by the people cheering for you.”

 

Craig Crosby — 621-5642
[email protected]

 

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
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