Belen family safe after Boston marathon attack

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The race clock was at 4:09.44 when the first explosion ripped through the crowd gathered near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on Monday.

Dolores and Jesse Espinoza, of Belen, visited Fenway Park in Boston two days before the Boston Marathon. Their daughter, Arlene, ran in the historic race, crossing the finish line less than a half hour before the explosions.

Less than 30 seconds later, a second device detonated.

In that 26th mile — the one dedicated to the Newtown shooting victims — three people died and more than 140 were injured when two bombs ended the race in a way no one could have ever predicted.

Belen native Arlene Espinoza was one of the tens-of-thousands of people in Boston on Monday to participate in one way or the other in a tradition that is “very Bostonian,” she said.

Marathon Monday is a day for old and young alike to turn out and cheer for the endurance runners capable enough to qualify for the marathon as they wend their way along the 26.2 miles of streets.

“It was an amazing day. Everyone was very enthusiastic,” said Espinoza via phone from her Boston hotel room Monday night. “There was no indication anything was wrong.”

Espinoza had finished the race, coming in at 3:47.45 — not the sub-three time she wanted, but finished nonetheless — and was sitting in the restaurant of the host hotel just past the finish line.

Photos courtesy of Dolores Espinoza: About 20 minutes before the explosion at the Boston Marathon on Monday, Belen native, Arlene Espinoza, in the green socks, crossed the finish line. Her parents, Dolores and Jesse Espinoza, were there to cheer her on.

“I was sitting there, drinking a glass of water when it happened. Everyone was startled, trying to figure out what was going on,” Espinoza said. “No one knew what happened. Was it a cannon, fireworks, something planned for the race? At first we thought it was all part of the excitement.”

Espinoza walked to a large bay window looking out onto the street. The glass in the windows of the building across the street were shaking from the concussion.

And then she saw people running, crying. Parents holding their children.

She and the other athletes at the hotel were told to stay put.

“Organizers told us, ‘No one is leaving, you’re staying here,’” Espinoza said.

So she and thousands of others waited to hear what happened — and waited to know if her loved ones were alright.

“I couldn’t get hold of my mom and dad. They disabled the phones right away. But I knew they were going back to the hotel room after I finished, and that was further away,” Espinoza said.

For most marathoners, running in Boston marks the pinnacle of their career, said Espinoza.

“It isn’t like you can just come here and sign up for the marathon; you have to qualify,” she said.

Espinoza, who now lives and trains in Albuquerque, said while she qualified for the race, she was able to attend thanks to the help of her massage therapist and chiropractor.

“They kind of Band-Aided me together. I really thought I would break three this marathon. I finished the first half like I wanted, but in mile 14, I got a terrible hip spasm. It locked up my whole leg,” she said. “My game plan changed then and there to just finish and be proud I finished.”

Even though she didn’t finish with the time she wanted and with the horrific end to the event, Espinoza said without a doubt, she will be back.

“I will be back next year, no question about that. My friends and I will continue to represent New Mexico everywhere,” Espinoza said. “This is a lot of work and emotion.”

One thing that she found unique to this race was the support from the crowds, mile after mile.

“I have never run a marathon where I’ve had support from mile one to mile 26,” she said. “This is something very Bostonian. It is very much woven into the community. Everyone comes out, young and old.

“And the people helping at the finish line, they are all volunteers. They love it and want to be a part. They don’t have to be there. It is so sad that this much attention is being shined on this event for something so negative.”

Arlene Espinoza, a Belen native, gives a thumbs up in her hotel room moments prior to running in the Boston Marathon on Monday. She ended with a time of 3:47:45.

Her mother, Dolores Espinoza, said she and her husband, Jesse, were back at the hotel when the explosions happened. This was not the first time the couple had been at the marathon — her husband ran last year.

“There were record (temperatures) last year and there were ambulances all over. I commented to my husband that this was nothing like last year,” Dolores said. “I no sooner said that, emergency services started going crazy.”

And last year, their daughter waited for three hours near the finish line to see her father finish his race. Espinoza waited on the spot where the first bomb exploded on Monday.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.