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Missoula runner tells Boston Marathon story

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Apr 15 2013 10:48:55 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 16 2013 04:52:38 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Monday NBC Montana spent the day calling Montana runners who were signed up to run the Boston Marathon. 

The Boston Marathon website shows 41 runners from around the state registered.

In our viewing area a number of people were running, including seven from Missoula, two from Kalispell, one from Superior and one from Huson.

Vo Von Sehlen and his wife Jen, both avid Missoula runners, were just 350 yards away when the explosions rocked the finish line.

Von Sehlen, a former NBC Montana colleague, called our station Monday evening to tell us that he was OK and fills us in on his story.

“We knew that something was wrong because you could have heard a needle drop to the ground…and it was really eerie at that moment,” recalled Von Sehlen. 

He told us he and his wife thought the loud blast might have been a celebratory cannon.

“The noise level of the spectators went down about half and then about five or six seconds later there was another explosion,” said Von Sehlen.   

He tells NBC Montana his first thought was safety.

“We thought ‘OK, what's the safest thing for us to do now to get away from this’ because we didn't know how many more there might be,” said Von Sehlen. 

He tells us police stopped runners, sirens and smoke filled the air and he and his wife realized patchy cell phone service was going to make it impossible to call for help.

“Traffic was an absolute nightmare so we just started walking -- not knowing exactly where we are because we've never been there -- for several hours,” he said. 

Following the explosions the city was shut down, public transportation was unavailable and having just finished a 26-mile marathon Von Sehlen and his wife found themselves without a ride home.

They walked for nearly five hours until their host family was able to pick them up.  Von Sehlen tells us there was a lot going through his mind.

“The very first thing, because I just finished a marathon, and my balance was really not there I was like ‘Please don't push me over and trample me to death,’” he said. 

Von Sehlen told us he can't believe a day meant for fun and families turned into such a nightmare.

“My heart really goes out -- and my prayers -- to the victims and families,” said Von Sehlen. 

NBC Montana has personally confirmed six of the seven runners from Missoula are safe and the seventh likely didn't make it to the race.

We also spoke to Dr. Richard Briles, of Kalispell, who finished the race and got out of the area before the explosions occurred.