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Local runners say bombings do not change their view of Boston Marathon

NORTHAMPTON — Tom Stevens is no stranger to sports-related tragedy. He was just a fresh-faced 17-year-old when he and a friend attended the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.

While Stevens fondly remembered experiences such as camping around the Olympic Park and sneaking into the Olympic Village, he also remembered watching news coverage of the hostage-taking. A Palestinian group called Black September took hostage and killed 11 Israeli athletes. That event, though tragic, did not change his view on the Olympic Games.

Just over 24 hours after Monday’s bombings that marred the Boston Marathon, Stevens was among about 50 people who ran in Tuesday’s Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club’s 5K Cross-Country Series at the Community Gardens. After the race, Stevens said Monday’s explosions had no bearing on his feeling toward the Boston Marathon.

“I honestly don’t feel any differently about the marathon,” Stevens said. “I was in Munich when those terrorists snuck into the Israeli compound and I don’t think anything less of the Olympics because that happened. (The marathon) could have been any public event. I think those people were taking advantage of the day. Those responsible simply wanted an area where there would be a lot of focus. It could have easily been outside Fenway Park at a Red Sox game or it could have been at a Bruins or Celtics game. It could have been any number of events. I don’t think the Boston Marathon is now cursed or anything like that.”

University of Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar, an avid runner of the cross-country series, was stepping out of a staff meeting when he felt his phone buzzing Monday. He grabbed it and quickly realized that someone had sent him a test message saying that a set of bombs had gone off at the Boston Marathon and that many people were hurt.

“It was very similar to 9/11,” Molnar said. “I had that same feeling of dread. It felt like a punch in the gut.”

Despite the tragedy, Molnar is optimistic that next year’s event will return stronger than ever.

“I think next year’s marathon will be even bigger and better,” he said. “The whole world will be behind it next year. It will show that here in America we don’t live in fear and we cherish our freedom and we’ll continue to go about our business. ... In fact, I would like to run the Boston Marathon next year.”

Michelle Fredette was at work when she learned of what transpired at the marathon finish. She was watching a livestream of the race in the morning, but later in the afternoon, she learned of the explosions when she was checked her Twitter feed. Her thoughts immediately turned toward her sister, who was in Boston participating in the race.

“I texted my sister at that very moment,” Fredette said. “She didn’t respond right away so I called her and I said ‘where are you?’ and she told me she was fine. She had finished long beforehand and was staying at a friend’s apartment. She didn’t know about the explosions until people starting calling her.”

Fredette said her sister wasn’t the only one she worried about.

“I knew a lot of people running in the race,” she said. “My sister was there. So was my brother-in-law, who was there watching her. I also had a lot of friends there as well so I really panicked for their safety.”

Despite the tragedy hitting close to home, Fredette doesn’t feel any differently about the race.

“It’s really sad that someone would use the marathon to hurt people when it is such an exciting and joyous event,” she said.

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