Brandon Gittelman thanks his lucky stars.
Not for running his first Boston Marathon in a personal-record time of 2 hours, 44 minutes, 19 seconds. For finishing the race an hour and a half before disaster struck.
A 2008 Naperville Central graduate, Gittelman had just returned to his hotel three blocks away when he heard the news.
"All of a sudden someone came in and said, 'Hey, there's been an explosion at the finish line,'" said Gittelman, 23. "We'd just run 26 miles so we were trying to decipher what was going on."
Gittelman was part of a large group, including Naperville Central teacher Christine Bell, representing the Dick Pond Fast Track Racing Team from Naperville. By late afternoon, all had checked in through social media. The last runner from Dick Pond finished about nine minutes before the first explosion, Gittelman said.
He described a confusing scene of gridlock in bustling Copley Square. Policemen and ambulances filled the area. Streets leading to the airport had been closed as well as sources of public transportation. A positive, was medical personnel had already been stationed near the finish line to help any runners who might need aid.
"Friday night when we got here we were walking down to the bars and stuff there, taking pictures of the finish line. It's creepy thinking that we were walking around taking pictures of this stuff and two days later this happened," Gittelman said.
It may take some time to cool down from this Boston Marathon.
"I'm kind of in shock, I know a lot of people are," he said. "I think it's one of these things where I'll get home and decompress, and it'll probably hit me a little bit more."