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Her Boston Marathon Story

“Life is just strange and so surreal,” said Bernie Cunningham, just two days after she returned home from the Boston Marathon to her quiet Salem neighborhood in Port Washington. Having run three NYC marathons and 25 local “Turkey Trots,” among others, Cunningham is a serious racer and was excited to have qualified for Boston’s race.

“The Boston Marathon is one of the biggest races that every serious runner puts on their bucket list,” said the Liverpool, England native. “Basically the first 16 miles are downhill –  sort of like running down Radcliff Avenue in Port Washington.”

Cunningham was about a half mile from the finish line, running steadily along Commonwealth Avenue, when she came to the Massachusetts Avenue underpass.  “Suddenly authorities stopped us from continuing,” she says. “At first, I thought maybe someone had fallen down, but an officer said there was an incident at the finish line. They weren’t letting anybody go any further.” It wasn’t long before they learned that two bombs had gone off.

Cunningham holds a vision in her mind from all the races she has completed. “Picture all sorts of runners shuffling around, all wrapped up in their Mylar blankets. Everybody is happy and wearing their medals,” she recalls. Monday afternoon was quite the opposite. According to Cunningham, the finish line area was completely cleared of anything. It was empty, there were police gathered around marking everything off with police tape. “It was like nothing I had ever seen.”

Greater Long Island Running Club President Mike Polansky told Anton Community Newspapers that the 50 or so Long Island runners were all accounted for and safe.

“Why target runners? We’re just stunned that anyone would do that at that kind of venue,” Polansky said of the Boston attacks.

County Executive Edward P. Mangano began hosting security meetings with all key groups in preparation for the upcoming Long Island Marathon next month. “We will continue to work together, gather intelligence and devote all of our resources and key personnel to protect our residents and visitors,” Mangano said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.”

This week, Cunningham is back to her daily routine, commuting on the train to New York every morning to her job as project manager for Mesoblast – a stem cell therapy company. She keeps a positive attitude moving forward. “In the grand scheme of things -- I know I can still run and there will be other races. It will take a lot more than what’s happened in Boston to stop me from running.”

Rich Forestano contributed to this story.