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Woman finishes Boston Marathon in Forsyth
Nearing finish line when blasts occurred Monday
Laura Semanson shows off a Boston Marathon medal after finishing the run Thursday at a business in south Forsyth. Behind her are fellow marathon participants Virginia Westerby and Shane Sweet. - photo by Crystal Ledford

Monday’s tragic attack at the Boston Marathon prevented Laura Semanson from finishing the 26.2-mile trek.

However, the Forsyth County woman got her chance to cowmplete the run at home Thursday night.

A group of women organized a mini-marathon of sorts outside a Peachtree Parkway retailer. They set up an official run time clock and hand-painted a large banner with “FINISH” written in bright yellow letters.

Semanson, who traveled to the Boston run with three other runners — Renee Fender, Virginia Westerby and Shane Sweet — was the only one who didn’t cross the finish line before the bomb blasts.

Semanson said getting the chance to finish with her friends Thursday meant a lot.

“It was fulfilling in a lot of ways just to be back with my family and my friends, celebrating what the running community is all about,” she said.

Semanson was four tenths of a mile away from the finish Monday afternoon.

“[The race] just came to a very abrupt stop and there was no public address system or anything,” she said. “They didn’t explain what was happening.

“And it was one of those things that was like the telephone game with information just trickling down, some of it right and some of it not.”

Westerby said she and Sweet had completed the run and were back in their hotel room when the blasts occurred.

“We were sitting there in the hotel room watching, just horrified,” she said. “But at the same time, we had just run a marathon so we were starving. We went in search of some food and it was a ghost town. They had cleared everything out from the downtown area.”

Thankfully, all four of the women and their supporters made it out of Boston without any injuries.

Semanson said the incident allowed them to see “the best and the worst of the people” all at once.

“When we were standing out there shivering in the cold with no information and having run a couple of hours, the people of Boston who lived on those streets came out of their homes and gave us water, brought us food, anything they could find,” she said.

“People handed out blankets. One guy came out with a whole box of his own clothes. So the people of Boston were quite amazing.

“In the face of something that was really horrible, you also got to see how other good people responded to it.”

Westerby said the possible after-effects of the day were worrisome initially.

“At first you’re just shocked and so sad that these people are going through this, but then angry that somebody had maybe changed the face of marathons and how people attend them,” she said. “It just made me mad at that person.”

But she found comfort in President Barack Obama’s address on Thursday.

“After [the] speech, I was crying,” she said. “That was exactly what we needed to hear.”

Those in attendance Thursday night noted that runners are a tough group that can’t be held back by one tragedy. They expect the running community to emerge stronger.

Added Westerby: “Next year’s Boston Marathon is going to be the best ever.”