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Local runners relieved to hear reports of a possible bombing suspect

Some local runners said they were relieved to hear reports late Wednesday that authorities may have identified a suspect responsible for the bombings that took place at the Boston Marathon.

Investigators poring over photos and video from the Boston Marathon have an image of a potential suspect in the deadly bombing but do not know his name and have not questioned him, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press.

Several news organizations reported Wednesday that a suspect had been identified from surveillance video taken at a department store midway between the sites of Monday’s two bomb blasts, which killed three people and wounded more than 170, according to the Associated Press.

“I can’t say enough about how happy it makes me feel that they got somebody,” said Richard Barton, 60, of Greenville. Authorities later reported that no one had been arrested.

Barton, who completed his ninth Boston Marathon, said he was a block away from the finish line when the explosions occurred.

“I thought maybe they were shooting a cannon off in celebration,” Barton said of the first explosion. He added the looks on the faces of the people around him told him the boom was no act of celebration. Then he saw the smoke and police running in the area.

“My wife said right away, it’s a bomb. She said we have to get out of here,” he said.

Barton, who finished the race in 4 hours and 33 minutes, paused as he thought about how relieved he was to find his wife, Crystal, 37, of nearly four years. “It was pretty emotional when we first saw each other,” he said. “I’m glad I finished. I’m glad I found my wife, but I can’t imagine for a minute what it’s like for that father who lost his son…I can’t imagine coming home without my wife.”

Kevin Frick, a 2011 graduate of Wittenberg University, had already finished with the race for about an hour and was in his hotel room, four blocks away from the finish line, when the bombs went off. Frick said he did not hear the blast, but began to receive a flurry of calls and text messages from friends and family members who were concerned for his safety.

By the time the reality of the situation set in, Frick said he and his family huddled in the hotel room and watched news reports the rest of the evening. As he watched the local news, the coverage reminded him of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

As he departed, Frick said there was a mass of military and police personnel at The Boston Common, the city’s historic park. Authorities were using the park for a staging area.

“It was definitely pretty intense,” Frick said.

After he returned home, Frick said he sometimes considers what could have happened.

“Were the bombs in there when I ran by?” he said. “I don’t know. What if my parents were nearby when it happened? A lot of what ifs are kind of scattered through my brain right now.”

Ryan Spear, a junior at the University of Dayton and an Akron native, said he was walking, a block away from the finish line, to a restaurant with his family when the first explosion occurred.

“You could definitely feel it on top of hearing it,” Spear said. “We could smell some smoke almost immediately.”

Shortly after the explosions, Spear noticed people sprinting pass him, crying and parents holding their crying children. “We picked up the pace walking,” Spear said. “None of us really knew what to think.”

The Spears found out about the explosions after they arrived at the restaurant. “It was really eery,” Spear said. “It was quiet and everyone was eating their meals and watching television.”

Spear stayed at the Lennox Hotel where he could see the finish line from his hotel window. Windows on the first three floors of the hotel had been blown out.

“We could not get into the Lennox Hotel. It was being treated like a crime scene,” Spear said. He added that once there was proof that he and his family were guests, authorities told them to get their belongings and leave. So Spear, his parents and brother left for another hotel.

Chris Harshbarger, 45, of Covington, crossed the finish line 40 minutes before the first explosion and was at least three blocks away in a restaurant when the explosions occurred. He didn’t hear the blasts, but became aware that some disaster had occurred when he saw the emergency personnel vehicles headed to the marathon area.

“Immediately when we left the restaurant, the first responders were motorcycle police followed by fire trucks…Then as soon as we walked back to the hotel, then you could just hear sirens from all over,” Harshbarger said.

“I think it’s fantastic if they find the person responsible for this horrendous act,” he said. ” I think the running community as a whole are not going to let intimidation of an act like that hinder our participation in a great event.”

Despite the circumstances, Harshbarger and Barton both said they would return to the marathon next year.

“I am not going to let this cowardice act keep me from participating in things that I love to do,” said Harshbarger, who completed his second Boston Marathon and finished the race in 3 hours and 27 minutes.

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