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Boston Marathon: Time to finish what he started

  • Joe Conway, who was running the Boston Marathon last year and was on the course about 400 yards away from the second blast, sits for a portrait at his home in Bradford on Thursday evening, April 17, 2014.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Joe Conway, who was running the Boston Marathon last year and was on the course about 400 yards away from the second blast, sits for a portrait at his home in Bradford on Thursday evening, April 17, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Joe Conway, who was running the Boston Marathon last year and was on the course about 400 yards away from the second blast, sits for a portrait at his home in Bradford on Thursday evening, April 17, 2014.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/>

    Joe Conway, who was running the Boston Marathon last year and was on the course about 400 yards away from the second blast, sits for a portrait at his home in Bradford on Thursday evening, April 17, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Joe Conway, who was running the Boston Marathon last year and was on the course about 400 yards away from the second blast, sits for a portrait at his home in Bradford on Thursday evening, April 17, 2014.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Joe Conway, who was running the Boston Marathon last year and was on the course about 400 yards away from the second blast, sits for a portrait at his home in Bradford on Thursday evening, April 17, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Joe Conway, who was running the Boston Marathon last year and was on the course about 400 yards away from the second blast, sits for a portrait at his home in Bradford on Thursday evening, April 17, 2014.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Joe Conway, who was running the Boston Marathon last year and was on the course about 400 yards away from the second blast, sits for a portrait at his home in Bradford on Thursday evening, April 17, 2014.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/>
  • Joe Conway, who was running the Boston Marathon last year and was on the course about 400 yards away from the second blast, sits for a portrait at his home in Bradford on Thursday evening, April 17, 2014.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Joe Conway of Bradford ran last year’s Boston Marathon as part of the Dana-Farber team, raising money to help fight cancer and paying tribute to his late wife, Maryse, who lost her battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2011. Conway, 61, collected more than $11,500 for Dana-Farber last year and was nearing the finish line when, as he put it, “all hell broke loose.”

“I was stopped at the top of Hereford Street and getting ready to turn onto Boylston when the second bomb went off. I was about 400 yards away,” said Conway, a vice president at Claremont Savings Bank who had also run Boston in 1989 and 1990. “At first I had no idea what was going on. We just saw smoke and the cops had stopped us. The first sign that I knew something really horrible was going on was when I saw the faces of the spectators that were trying to get out of that area. The looks on their faces told you something bad was going on.”

Other runners quickly piled up behind Conway. Confusion reigned because “you couldn’t get any real information from anyone, just bits and pieces, and more misinformation than anything,” Conway said. A woman appeared, handing out garbage bags for the now cold runners to use as improvised ponchos. A caravan of black SUVs with flashing lights used the sidewalks to get past the crowd.

“And then you could see emergency vehicles coming from every direction,” Conway said. “It seemed like the whole place turned into a war zone.”

He was stuck on Hereford Street for nearly an hour. After that, Conway went through a maze of detours, police lines and security checkpoints. His first stop was the Dana-Farber shuttle bus to collect his gear bag so he could change out of his garbage bag. Then he headed for his hotel, the Marriott at Copley Place, where he found the lobby deserted and the security guards on edge.

Eventually he made it back to his room and connected with his daughters, Aryn and Megan, who were at the race to watch their dad. He couldn’t leave Boston until the next day, and when he returned to the city a few weeks later he admitted, “It was kind of eerie to be down there.” But when he reconnected with the Dana-Farber team in June, Conway decided he would run the marathon again this year. He’s raised $10,000 for cancer research, and he will be back on the course tomorrow.

“After that meeting with the Dana-Farber people, I knew I was coming back, no matter what,’” Conway said. “I was signing up and going back to finish what I started.”

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