Joseph Cappellano was just a couple hundred yards from the finish line of the Boston Marathon when he was told he couldn’t go any further by police and marathon officials.
“It was just utter confusion,” said the Boston Scholar Athlete senior zone facilitator. “You’re pretty exhausted at that point and when a bunch of cops just kind of jump out and stop you, it’s literally total confusion about how they could possibly stop somebody that’s been running 26 miles.”
Cappellano had been training for the marathon for five months to raise money for his public school students from around the city.
He stood on Commonwealth Avenue, waiting in the growing crowd of marathon runners trying to make sense of what was happening as marathon and police officials tried to get the crowd to remain calm and patient.
Not exactly the easiest thing for hundreds of dehydrated runners being backed up after they had been running miles without hesitation for hours.
“A lot of people were struggling because at the finish line there’s medical tents, there’s water, there’s blankets and things so people were basically stopped without anything,” Cappellano said.
Many of the runners also didn’t run with their cell phones so they couldn’t reach their families. Cappellano’s father, who waited anxiously at the finish line, was one of those relatives.
“As we were running, we heard a couple loud booms but we were on Commonwealth [Avenue] right before you take the right on to Boylston [Street] so we couldn’t really see anything until we saw the smoke above the buildings,” he said.
That’s when the zone facilitator began to see police officials sprint towards the incident with their only concern being the safety of civilians, just like Cappellano had ran for the well being of his students.
“The race day, that’s kind of like the celebration. That’s the fun part so it’s not necessarily what your completely doing it for, it’s about the organization you’re running for,” Cappellano said. “It’s my students who I’m raising money for and the program that I love, work in and that I believe in.”
Some of Cappellano’s O’Bryant students volunteered at the race, handing out water at mile 23 in support of their zone facilitator. Some even ran with him for a mile.
“I said, ‘guys you should probably get back with your group,’ and they turned around a couple miles before the [finish]. Thank God,” Cappellano said.
Liz Collins, a project manager for people and culture at Suffolk Construction Company, which funds the BSA, was also running on Monday. She was about a mile from the finish when she was diverted off the course.
“The thing that made me so scared was that was his time, that was when Joe was supposed to cross the finish line,” Collins said. “That’s what was so crazy.”
As the crowd at Commonwealth Avenue continued to back up, Cappellano and the rest of the runners were walked to the marathon buses at Berkley Street to get their phones and contact their relatives.
“[My father] saw tons of police and civilians running in to help others and I think it’s just a tribute to the spirit of the day,” Cappellano said. “The city and the state come out to support these runners and support these causes and it’s not about you , it’s not about one person, it’s really just a selfless, selfless day and I think that showed true in the wake of tragedy.”
Cappellano’s father and friends were all unharmed by the explosions at the finish line. Just like all of the runners, the BSA will still receive all of the money that he raised through the race.
The runner estimated that by the end of the month deadline for marathon fundraising, he would have individually raised $6,000 for the BSA. Currently the program has raised $23,295.
“It’s fantastic that the charities will still be able to collect the money that’s been worked hard for these past five months,” Cappellano said.
While it wasn’t his first Boston Marathon, Cappellano planned on this race being his last. But despite what happened yesterday, he has a feeling he won’t be able to be kept away from his goal – crossing the finish line.
“We’re not going to let fear stop us from this great tradition and this great wonderful day that will be such a big part of Boston’s history,” Cappellano said.
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.