Willmar notebook: From joy to sorrow in Boston

It was the best of times and the worst of times. Patriot's Day, a Boston holiday, flipped upside down 10 minutes before three o'clock on Monday afternoon. Slightly fewer than 500 Minnesotans had signed up for the 117th Boston Marathon. Over 28, 5...

Brooke Baeth
Photo by Kelly Baeth A happy start to Patriot’s Day and the Boston Marathon: Brooke Baeth of Spicer has a thumb up 8 miles after leaving Hopkinton.

It was the best of times and the worst of times.

Patriot’s Day, a Boston holiday, flipped upside down 10 minutes before three o’clock on Monday afternoon.

Slightly fewer than 500 Minnesotans had signed up for the 117th Boston Marathon. Over 28, 500 entrants set off in one of three waves from 10-10:40 a.m. from the country southwest of the city 26.2 miles from the finish on Boylston Street.

Among the half-dozen runners from the coverage area was Brooke Baeth, 33, of Spicer. She is a speech pathologist at Rice Memorial Hospital who began running at the University of Nebraska after growing up in Brookings, S.D. She flew to Boston with her husband Kelly Baeth, a New London native.

She crossed the finish in 3:40.35 and with her husband headed back to their hotel room about four blocks from the end of the race. When the bombs went off, emergency vehicles suddenly filled the street below their window. They watched the horrific event unfold on television.


“We were informed by a voicemail that the hotel was on lockdown,” Brooke told me Thursday.  “It was pretty scary because you wondered what else was going to happen. There were rumors of more bombs. It was pretty unsettling.”

Asked her reaction to what she watched unfold that afternoon, she responded: “It’s hard to put in words. You’re so sad for all the victims, and as a runner you also feel badly for all those who had worked so hard but were stripped of their chance to finish.”

The couple flew home on Tuesday afternoon. Many other Minnesotans were on the flight.

This was her fifth marathon and last. She had determined that beforehand. A running-related hip injury late in summer sidelined her three months. Only physical therapy and determination allowed her to regain her conditioning in time to barely achieve the 3:35 qualifying standard for her age group at the Fargo Marathon in May. “I felt so blessed that I got to run at Boston,” she said. 

She will continue to run, she insists, but no more than half-marathons.

She’ll run with Boston on her mind.

“After what happened, you feel an emotional connection to all those people.”

Jennifer Lund of Cyrus completed her seventh marathon and first at Boston in a time of 4:00.56, only minutes before the area near the finish turned from joyfulness to horror.


In a series of emails exchanged with this reporter, the 51-year-old director of campus police at the University of Minnesota, Morris expressed gratitude that she and her friends were all OK.

“I thought it was a bomb. Most of the runners around me were trying to get their bags that were checked so they could get their cell phones. No one knew where to go. Law enforcement, military, fire and ambulance [flooded in] … I finished about eight minutes before the bombing. I felt good so I kept moving. I was a block and a half away. I heard the explosion and saw the smoke. One friend was at the finish line but managed to get out uninjured. I managed to find my other friends eventually. We were very fortunate and our hearts go out to everyone here … I started running in elementary school. Girls sports started officially when I was a seventh-grader. I started running marathons when my boys were in high school. I’ve also run several half-marathons. I can’t wait to get home.”

According to an article posted on the Morris Sun Tribune website, Lund traveled to Boston with several friends from the area, including Lisa Harris, Alissa Nagel, Sharon Martin, Dot Vick and Nikki Rath.

The Boston Athletic Association result page shows that 26,839 runners started and 17,580 were able to finish. The figures for Minnesota were 452/420.

The B.A.A. website stated that it will “Address issues of those who could not cross the finish on Boylston Street due to the tragic event which occurred near the finish line.”

Other runners with an area hometown appearing on the B.A.A. results page are Tom Taunton, 53 (3:51.20) of New London, Gary Geer, 46 (3:42.19), of Brooten and Steve Meier, 42 (3:23.22), of Willmar.

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