AL HAMNIK: Boston Marathon bombing called 'outside the box'

2013-04-16T00:00:00Z 2013-04-18T22:52:04Z AL HAMNIK: Boston Marathon bombing called 'outside the box'Al Hamnik Times Columnist
April 16, 2013 12:00 am  • 

You could sense the shock and deep sadness in Carey Pinkowski's voice as if he were sitting next you at a Starbucks, baring his soul.

But on a warm, balmy Monday, the Chicago Marathon executive race director was in Boston, scouting potential runners for his event, chatting with coaches, trainers and meet officials, like he's done for so many years.

"I was in the media center, which is probably 100 yards away from the finish line," Pinkowski said by phone. "It was a beautiful day. A beautiful morning. A great race.

"Normally, I would've walked out and watched the finish of the race."

He didn't, this time.

Maybe it was a voice from within, perhaps a guardian angel.

Maybe the field of 27,500 runners at one of the world's premier marathons had that many interesting storylines for the Hammond grad to discuss with those covering the sport.

Moments after the winners trotted in, Pinkowski left for Logan International Airport in East Boston to catch a flight back to Chicago.

And then all hell broke loose on another dark day America will never forget. We were attacked again, on a holiday honoring Boston's patriots.

Two bombs exploded near the finish line about two hours after the winners had crossed. Three people were killed, more than 100 injured at last count, and several amputations were performed according to various news accounts.

"I'm at a loss for words," Pinkowski said. "I was talking to one of the Boston workers I know while on my way to the airport when he suddenly shouted: 'Wow! I just heard an explosion!' -- and we were cut off."

Two other explosive devices reportedly were found nearby and dismantled. There was no immediate word on the motive or who was behind the attack. There was no advance warning.

"It's a crazy day," Pinkowski said. "This affects the world as we know it, not just the marathon."

Pinkowski hoped to return to Chicago on Monday night and then had a Wednesday flight scheduled for London, where he will scout Sunday's London Marathon.

Already, race officials there are planning increased security. A field of 37,500 runners competed last year.

London has long been considered a top target for international terrorists, with the government saying the threat level is "substantial."

Pinkowski travels world-wide scouting the major marathons, recruiting the top athletes and learning new trends and training techniques for his race in early October, which usually draws 45,000 participants.

"We're very good friends with the Boston Marathon people. I know a lot of the people there who work in that (media) center," he said. "I've been texting a lot of people I'm really concerned about."

Never, in Pinkowski's previous 23 Chicago Marathons, had security been such a hot-button topic.

"Security and safety are our primary concerns," he said. "Our recent Shamrock Shuffle had 40,000 runners. We have our perimeter fencing and security in place for both marathons.

"But what happened (Monday) is something out of the box."

The future of all major marathons, once considered a safe venue in this country, will now be determined by what authorities learn in Boston.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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