For 17 years, Fresno resident Brad Castillo had strived to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
On Monday, he was less than half a mile away from the finish line – or, at his pace, about four minutes away from realizing his dream – when the mass of runners stopped. At that point, Castillo didn’t know there had been two explosions at the finish line.
“I did not hear it, and the reason I did not hear it, and the reason a lot of the people did not hear it, is because the crowds are so huge, and the fans that line up alongside the race course are just so incredibly loud, that they drowned out the noise from pretty far,” Castillo said.
He learned of the tragedy from a fellow runner.
“Some person comes up to me and she’s begging me, ‘can I please borrow your cell phone? I want to text my parents and let them know that I’m OK,’” he recalled. “And I said, ‘what do you mean?’ and that’s when she said there’s been an explosion at the finish line and people have died.”
Castillo was physically exhausted from having run more than 25 miles. As the news sunk in, different sensations coursed through his body.
“It happened so quickly that your immediate reactions are disbelief, then anger, and then it’s chaos, shock, you just go through all of these emotions in such a quick time,” he said. “I’ve never been in anything like that, it was just pretty surreal.”
Two days later, his emotions are still raw. As the investigation continues, Castillo is wondering who could have committed the crime.
“It just makes no sense to me, and so when I start to think about who this person could possibly be, it doesn’t matter, just anger boils inside of me, because of what they took away from so many people that were there,” he said. “I’m not talking about people who didn’t get to finish, like myself, I’m talking about the families who were there waiting for their loved ones to cross the finish line.”
Castillo’s also upset by the pain and trauma experienced by his fellow runners.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t know someone, if you’ve never run with them,” he said. “The fact that you know that they’ve endured the same kind of pain that you did while trying to qualify for Boston, you have a kinship, there’s a family kinship and to me, it just feels like I lost a lot of good friends there.”
Despite everything he endured, Castillo says he’s determined to run in the Boston Marathon again next year. He’ll be nervous, but he won’t let the fear stop him from realizing his dream.