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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bloomsday racer suffered close call in Boston

Bill Iffrig will race again here just weeks after a very close call

Bill Iffrig, who barely escaped injury in the Boston Marathon explosions, looks at his photo on the cover of Sports Illustrated. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

Bill Iffrig will run this weekend’s Bloomsday race wearing the same orange singlet he wore during the Boston Marathon last month.

The Lake Stevens, Wash., runner was nearly at the finish line when the first of two homemade bombs exploded. The explosions killed three and injured more than 260 people that day.

The blast erupted about 20 yards to his left. Iffrig, 78, fell to the ground, his legs turned to noodles by the bomb’s sound and power.

That shirt is Iffrig’s orange badge, worn by runners belonging to Club Northwest, one of Western Washington’s best-known running groups.

Iffrig said it’s his lucky singlet.

“I guess it’s lucky, because I’m still going,” Iffrig said.

This Sunday’s Bloomsday will be his 12th or 13th – he admits it’s not a number he’s committed to memory.

What he does know is he’s won his age group seven of the past eight years, running the 12-kilometer race as fast as 53:20, his best time in the past decade.

As a thank-you to Iffrig for coming back, the Lilac Bloomsday Association will host Iffrig and his wife Donna in the DoubleTree Hotel for two nights.

Iffrig said he’s run hundreds of races across the country. “Bloomsday is absolutely one of the best. It’s so well-organized. That makes it special,” he said.

Any race that has everything in its right place is just about what the doctor ordered for him.

The latest Boston Marathon was Iffrig’s third. He was running fine and was within 20 or 30 feet of the finish line when the first bomb exploded.

“I thought it had to be some kind of bomb, the explosion was tremendous,” he said.

He lay on the street for several seconds, stunned, watching as people began trying to make sense of what happened. A second bomb then exploded behind him along the street.

Iffrig sat up and felt around and found he was fine, with just a knee abrasion.

A volunteer came up, followed soon after by three police officers, standing close by, searching the crowd to identify any new threat. Photos of that scene appeared on websites and newspapers around the world.

In time, Iffrig rose up and a volunteer helped him cross the finish line. His time at the finish: 4 hours, 3 minutes, 47 seconds.

It was probably his final Boston Marathon, he said.

“I’ll be 79 next year. I’ve been there, and I don’t need to run that race again,” he said.

The aftermath of the explosion has left him with a sore quadriceps muscle, and Iffrig said that injury has slowed his training schedule the past two weeks.

He’s putting in about 20 miles of training this week and figures he’ll be ready for Sunday. His past running success at Bloomsday allows Iffrig to start among the elite runners, near the head of the pack on Riverside Avenue.

“That lets me start up near the Kenyan runners,” Iffrig said, which means he gets to follow them for about a half-mile. Then they leave him and other runners behind.

After his wife and their daughter, Susan Shephard, finish walking the course, the Iffrigs plan to celebrate downtown.

“It’ll be Cinco de Mayo. I’m sure we’ll be able to find a way to celebrate in good style,” he said.