What was supposed to be a day of accomplishments and personals bests quickly turned into a living nightmare for many Albertans competing in the Boston Marathon Monday.
More than 200 runners from Alberta signed up to participate in the annual road race - but the experience soon turned to horror after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the race, killing three and injuring approximately 140.
"We all turned around and then we saw the explosion and it was right at the finish line," Steve Smith of Bearspaw told CBC.
"It echoed around the buildings and shook all the glass. My ears are still ringing from that one."
Smoke from the bombs filled nearby streets, leaving two sisters frantically searching for each other.
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Global News reports Gloria Boucher was running the marathon while her sister, Connie, stood on the sidelines cheering her on.
The sisters, from High River, were supposed to meet back at their hotel after the race, but Connie was nowhere to be found.
“I started to panic and I didn’t know what to do, it was awful,” Gloria recalls.
Connie, meanwhile, decided to stay near the explosion site and find her sister.
“I thought, I’m not leaving here without my sister. So I ran back up towards my finish line…they had already blocked it all off, they forced us all back,” she explains. “I came back to the finish line and I waited and waited and waited, until they pretty much forced us out of that area.
Spectator Kirsten Fleming, executive director of the Calgary Marathon, told the Calgary Sun she came upon the horrific aftermath following lunch with a friend two blocks away.
“There were runners everywhere pretty shaken up and people sitting on the sidewalk with their heads between their hands,” she said.
“It was a bit of a war zone — people were coming out of that area with bandages on their heads and bleeding.
“There were a lot of people crying and upset and just flabbergasted.”
Morrie Ripley of Spruce Grove told Metro Edmonton he was approaching Mile 19 of the 26.2 mile race when he heard the bombs go off.
“It was just insane, the amount of ambulances flying by people who were running on the racecourse,” Ripley said.
As the initial shock began to wear off, many of Alberta's marathoners were trying to make sense of the tragedy.
“It’s such an incredible marathon, you hear of so many people that want to qualify for this, it's top notch. I think (the explosion) is just really disappointing,” Sylvan Lake runner Julian Price told Metro.
Rebecca Beaulne, a runner from Fort McMurray who was participating with her sister from Calgary, told Fort McMurray Today that she has been locked-down in her hotel room since the explosions occured. Meanwhile, she watches television coverage and waits for more information about when she'll be able to leave.
"I'm sad for the people who died, I'm sad for the people who were injured. But I'm also sad for the city of Boston," she said. "They do such a good job of putting on this marathon. There really is no other marathon like it."
Camore runner Kyle McLaughlin was trying to wrap his head around the tragedy Monday evening.
“Being an emergency physician I have somewhat of an understanding of the degree of potential injury with an explosive and the complexity of responding to a mass casualty event, however, I would have never expected such a senseless act to occur during such an amazing event,” McLaughlin told the Canmore Leader.
“Having two young kids, I can not imagine the sadness felt by the family who lost their eight-year-old boy today.”
Premier Alison Redford, and leaders of the opposition parties, expressed their condolences.
“When I first saw the pictures, it reminded me of 9/11, because.. fear is what happens next. I’m not trying to be a fearmonger. I think it’s absolutely tragic that people have been killed and people have been injured. I know we don’t yet know what the actual cause is,” the Calgary Herald reports Redford as saying.
“There’s no doubt it’s a tragic situation, it’s a terrible situation, and it does mean we need to be vigilant with respect to public security. My heart goes out to those people.”
FBI in Boston are investigating the bombings, with authorities serving a warrant on a suburban Boston home and asking for those with any private video, audio and still images of the blasts to report to police.
Friends and relatives seeking information on Canadian citizens believed to be in the area are asked to contact 1-800-387-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org.