BHS teacher safe after Boston Marathon

Published 7:29 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pauncho Hufstetler shows off his number prior to the start of Monday’s Boston Marathon race.|Submitted

Pauncho Hufstetler shows off his number prior to the start of Monday’s Boston Marathon race.|Submitted

Bainbridge High School teacher Pauncho Hufstetler successfully completed the Boston Marathon on Monday, but he was nowhere close to the finish line when a series of deadly explosions went off there.

Hufstetler, who teaches AP History at BHS and is a former tennis coach for the Bearcats, finished the marathon in a time of 3 hours, 27 minutes, 57 seconds, well ahead of the two bombings. The deadly explosions occurred at about the 4 hour, 9 minute mark of the run, and by that time Hufstetler and his family were safely out of the area.

Three people were killed and at least 170 more were injured by the explosions, which federal authorities have classified as a terrorist attack.

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Hufstetler said he met his wife, Michelle, and his father, Paul, at the finish line shortly after he completed the race. She is an eighth-grade physical science teacher at Bainbridge Middle School.

He said the three had considered staying in the neighborhood to go to a restaurant, but decided it was too crowded. Instead, they went to a restaurant across from their hotel, which was about two miles away from the site of the blasts. Hufstetler said he was at a table in the restaurant when his phone “started going crazy.” He was not close enough to hear any explosions.

“I’ve never sent so many text messages in my life,” Hufstetler said. “There were so many people who wanted to know if I was OK. At first I didn’t know what they meant — I thought maybe they were asking if I was physically OK after running such a long race.”

Of course, news of the explosions quickly spread in the restaurant and Hufstetler came to realize why he had received all those text messages.

“It’s just so pointless,” he said. “There’s absolutely nothing negative about the Boston Marathon. They raise a lot of money for charities. I just don’t understand what would make somebody want to do anything like this.”

Hufstetler said he and his family members were able to fly out of Boston late Monday evening, and he is now safely home in Bainbridge.
BHS Principal Tommie Howell said that the faculty and students were on edge until they heard that Hufstetler was all right.

“We had gotten word that he had finished the race,” Howell said. “It was a nervous time after that, though, and we are very relieved when he emailed us to let us know that he was fine.

“That’s probably the best email that I’ve ever received in my life.”

Hufstetler said he has been an avid runner for about five years, and Boston was only his second marathon ever. He ran in a Jacksonville, Fla., marathon in December 2011, and his time was good enough to qualify him to run in the Boston Marathon.

He said that even though Boston’s marathon is not the biggest in the world, it is arguably one of the oldest and most traditional. He made it a personal goal to eventually participate.

Hufstetler said he usually trains by running six miles a day from Monday through Saturday, and then 12 miles a day on Sunday. However, starting in January he really ramped up his training, pushing himself to run at least 20 miles every other Sunday.

Hufstetler said that one of the greatest things about the Boston Marathon is how excited the spectators get during the event. It is always held on Patriots’ Day, which is a state holiday in Massachusetts, and there are immense crowds along nearly the entire 26.2-mile course.

“I was wearing a University of Georgia shirt, and every so often I’d hear a ‘Go Bulldog!’ or ‘Go Georgia!’ from the crowd,” he said. “The experience of running the race was definitely amazing.”

Hufstetler said he is unsure if he wants to try running in another Boston Marathon, because he was a little disappointed by his time, and also because it is a logistical and financial ordeal. However, he wouldn’t let fear prevent him from participating in another large event.

“I don’t think [fear of another attack] would prevent me from going to another marathon,” he said. “I think it’s more about whether I think I’m capable of running another marathon in a better time. Even if I never do it again, I’m glad I had the chance to experience it.”