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BOSTON MARATHON: A father-son experience

  • Brian Collins, who crossed the finish line 40 minutes before the bombings at the Boston Marathon last year and is returning for 24th straight race this year, stands for a portrait at NHTI where he was running a 5K on Friday, April 18, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Brian Collins, who crossed the finish line 40 minutes before the bombings at the Boston Marathon last year and is returning for 24th straight race this year, stands for a portrait at NHTI where he was running a 5K on Friday, April 18, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Brian Collins, who crossed the finish line 40 minutes before the bombings at the Boston Marathon last year and is returning for 24th straight race this year, stands for a portrait at NHTI where he was running a 5K on Friday, April 18, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Brian Collins, who crossed the finish line 40 minutes before the bombings at the Boston Marathon last year and is returning for 24th straight race this year, stands for a portrait at NHTI where he was running a 5K on Friday, April 18, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Brian Collins, who crossed the finish line 40 minutes before the bombings at the Boston Marathon last year and is returning for 24th straight race this year, stands for a portrait at NHTI where he was running a 5K on Friday, April 18, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Brian Collins, who crossed the finish line 40 minutes before the bombings at the Boston Marathon last year and is returning for 24th straight race this year, stands for a portrait at NHTI where he was running a 5K on Friday, April 18, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Brian Collins, who works in the mental health field and lives in Canterbury, crossed the finish line 40 minutes before last year’s explosions.

“We did not know it was a bomb until we got to our car and the emails and texts were pouring in,” Collins said. “We didn’t understand what was going on.”

Collins will run Boston for the 24th straight year tomorrow. He never doubted he’d be back after last year’s nightmare, but he knows the sadness and fear on Boylston Street will be unavoidable.

“The glitter is not as shiny as it was because at the end of the day you have an event that was robbed of the joy we all felt for it,” Collins said. “You get people who like to celebrate by harming other people, the evil side of humanity, so I worry that something might happen.”

While Collins said he’s apprehensive over what may come tomorrow, he also said the support he received last year overwhelmed him.

“I had people come to my house to check on me,” Collins said. “It was really fascinating. Running a marathon is a selfish deed, where I’m not in it for the greater good, I’m in it for my own personal needs. Then you realize how your acts affect other people.”

Meanwhile, his son’s simple act of standing still greatly affected Collins.

That’s because Brendan Collins, 27, was waiting for his father at the finish line, and missed being caught in the smoke and chaos by about a half-hour.

Brendan Collins, a lab research scientist, lives in Somerville. He waited for his father at the finish line last year and was close enough, about three blocks away, to hear the explosions.

“When he finished, we started moving down so we could meet him,” Collins said, referring to his father. “We met him a couple of blocks away. We were walking pretty slowly. I was just in my own world talking to my dad, and you knew it was an explosion, but we were far enough away where I thought maybe it was a car accident.”

After the second bomb detonated 12 seconds after the first, Collins, hearing sirens, thought maybe a gas line had exploded. Or maybe a transformer had overheated. Hadn’t that happened recently, he reasoned, causing rolling blackouts?

It wasn’t until he and his family climbed into the family car and began driving north that the radio told them they’d been at the scene of a tragedy.

“Who would have thought that what happened would have been the case?” Collins said. “That’s ridiculous.”

Things got crazier for Collins when his company in Cambridge was shut down during the manhunt for the bombing suspects.

“I stayed home and stayed glued to the TV all day,” Collins said.

He’ll be back tomorrow, but this time as a runner competing in the Boston Marathon for the first time ever.

Collins ran the 800-meter and mile in high school and also ran track at Boston College, so he’s no stranger to the mental toughness and physical demands of big-time competition.

In fact, he qualified for tomorrow’s race with a swift time of 3:14.8 at the Lehigh Valley Health Network Marathon last September in Allentown, Pa.

Asked why he finally chose to run the Boston Marathon after watching it for so many years, Collins said, “It was always one of those things where I said I have to do this eventually, at least once. And then of course, after everything happened, I said this has got to be the year.”

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