Hartland Native Felt Boston Marathon Blast
Hartland native Dave Fortier, left, with Dick Hoyt, who has participated in the Boston Marathon with his disabled son for 31 years. Fortier was nearing the finish line of the Marathon when the first bomb blast exploded. Photograph courtesy of Larry Fortier
Dave Fortier wasn’t sure how he was going to feel when he finished last week’s Boston Marathon, but when he saw the 22-mile marker, he felt pretty good.
At that point, it was the farthest the Hartland native had ever run in one go, the result of a truncated training regimen that began only in October
But shortly after 2 p.m. last Monday, as Fortier passed from Boston’s Brighton neighborhood into Brookline, Mass., he knew his goal was within reach.
Nearly 40 minutes and a few miles later, he turned onto the homestretch — Boylston Street — and was greeted by the cheers of onlookers who lined the street as he chugged toward the finish line.
“For 26.19 miles, I had a fantastic time,” Fortier said. “I really did.”
Then there was an explosion.
Fortier, 48, ran his first half-marathon on a whim last fall in the pouring rain at Hampton Beach, and liked it enough to do it a second time, in Newburyport, Mass., in October.
Halfway through that race, he had a revelation: “If I’m going to do this stuff,” he said, “I’m going to do it for a reason.”
Fortier was still wearing his running clothes when he called a friend with a rare form of leukemia, offering to run future races in support of cancer research. Eventually, he connected with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which organizes an annual marathon challenge to raise money for research.
Fortier grew up in the Upper Valley and graduated from Windsor High School, where he played football, basketball and baseball.
He was a ski instructor at Mount Ascutney, a body double for Chevy Chase in the movie Funny Farm, which was filmed partially in Windsor, and has lived for 16 years in Newburyport, where he runs a telecommunications business.
Other than the two half-marathons, however, Fortier didn’t consider himself a runner, but he doggedly stuck to a training regimen outlined by the institute.
His wife, Tracey, who grew up in Windsor, recalled him heading into near-freezing weather one night for a 10-mile run at 10 p.m., after the family had returned from a long trip.
“I never doubted he could do it,” she said late last week. “He from time to time would express being a little bit nervous as the date approached, and my two kids and I would say, ‘Are you kidding? Of course you could do this.’ ”
Shortly before 3 p.m. last Monday afternoon, Fortier was feeling good. Maintaining his pace was one of his goals for the race, and he had. The other goal was finishing. Now, the finish line was less than a half-mile away.
OK, he thought. There it is. It’s down at the end. I can get there.
He turned the corner and found his family, up against the fence, in front of the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center. He gave them a big wave.
“One thing we did notice was just how much fun it looked like he was having,” Tracey Fortier said.
Fortier started down Boylston Street. Boy and Girl Scout troop members reached from behind barriers to high-five him. He obliged, until stopping to focus his attention on one last stretch of blacktop.
“I saw the finish line,” he recalled. “I’m going to make this thing.”
The impact of the first blast forced him sideways, just yards from the finish line. Debris tore through his shoe and hit his foot. He spun around to see what had happened and cupped his left ear with his hand.
Bill Iffrig, the 78-year-old runner who appeared prone surrounded by three police officers in an iconic photograph taken just after the blast, fell to the ground just a few feet away from where Fortier ran. (The moment is captured on video that can be viewed online at http://youtube/rkZ1rigXknk.)
For Fortier, all sounds afterward were muffled. The next blast, which went off seconds later farther back up Boylston Street, sounded like a distant gunshot.
He crossed the finish line and was one of the first runners to end up in the nearby medical tent.
His foot injury wasn’t serious — he received several stitches later that day — and he made his was to a nearby bench. He sent a text message to his wife, who let him know the family was safe.
He received a text from his brother, who said he saw him on TV, on the video of the blast played endlessly through the day. He called his parents’ house in Hartland and left a message letting them know he was OK.
He returned home that night at about 10 p.m., wearing the hospital scrubs he was offered when law enforcement officials took his running gear as evidence. His parents had been at the house for several hours, and his father, Larry, had been emailing updates to family members from his iPad. Other than Fortier’s foot and slowly improving hearing, there were no lasting injuries.
In Newburyport, a commuter train ride from Boston, personal connections to the marathon bombings are everywhere, Tracey Fortier said. Everyone knows someone who was either running or viewing the race.
“People sound angry,” Dave Fortier said Friday, before the second bombing suspect had been apprehended. “They sound frustrated. I think it gives everybody pause to realize what kind of a world we live in.”
Jon Wolper can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3248.