Coach Kvilhaug tells her Boston Marathon story


St. John’s softball coach Amy Kvilhaug finished the Boston Marathon more than 40 minutes before the two bombs exploded. She told the Torch she had no idea what had happened until her friend and fellow marathoner Meredith Cleasby sent her an unusual series of text messages.

The first text said, “I’m fine.”
The next said, “Bomb.”

“I thought she was saying I was the bomb,” Kvilhaug said in an interview with the Torch.

“I dismiss it because I didn’t know what she was talking about.”

“A minute or two later, someone comes in [my hotel room] and says there have been bombs that have gone off on the finish line,” she said. “I start freaking out.”

That was the moment Kvilhaug learned about the blasts that killed three, injured more than 200 and shook her hometown of Boston’s tranquility for days. But before it all sunk in, her immediate impulse was to track down her father and her friend Cynthia Lujan from Arizona, who was still running the race.

Fortunately for the Kvilhaugs, they finished minutes apart from each other — and before the pandemonium struck.

Finding Cynthia, however, provided some scary moments.

Amy Kvilhaug said she frantically ran downstairs from her hotel lobby and found her father waiting for her. They then left to find Cynthia, and Kvilhaug said she repeatedly told her father, “She has a four-month-old baby, she has a four-month-old baby!” That’s all she could think about at that moment.

“She was trying for years to have a baby but she couldn’t,” she said. “She was on cloud nine with her new family.”

The St. John’s softball coach said he was unable to reach Cynthia on her cellphone, which was quickly losing battery life. She said she then went inside the mall that is attached to her hotel by the Prudential Center and found a phone inside one of the stores. But those calls went unanswered, too. And for the next hour the same scenario repeated itself, until finally Cynthia picked up.

“She tells me right where she is and go to find her,” Kvilhaug said. “I let everyone know I found her.”

And Hvilhaug learned just how lucky her friend was.

“She crossed the finish line 1:24 seconds before the bomb went off,” she said.

After they were both safe and sound within the confines of their hotel room, they reached out to Hvilhaug’s friend Meredith, the woman who initially texted the softball coach with the word ‘bomb.’

“She went in the restaurant to go get a bite to eat and was going to meet us after,” Hvilhaug said.

“Right after she steps in the restaurant the bomb goes off.”

So she, as fate would have it, was just out of harm’s way, Kvilhaug said.

It wasn’t until the day after that the whole scope the event hit Kvilhaug, who’s in her sixth season as St. John’s softball coach.

“The last few days were a little hard for me,” she said, “because one my close friends was right there and she just happened to go in the restaurant.”

The next couple days were mixed with positive vibes and anxiousness of the whereabouts of the bombers. But when news broke that one of them of was killed and the other was finally caught, a huge avalanche of relief followed.

“I’m happy that whoever was captured finally got captured,” she said. “I want justice in the right way for this guy.”

And she added that last week’s sequence of events won’t dissuade her from running the 26.2-mile long course through Boston next year.

“Both me and my dad were talking last night, ‘we can’t wait to run next year’.”