Between the Blasts: A retired judge describes the finish line terror

A total of 23,336 runners started the 2013 Boston Marathon, with 17,580 finishing. In the next few days, the Associated Press analyzed images and data including the finishing times recorded by chips on competitors’ bibs, to pinpoint some of the runners who were in the finish line area when the bombs went off. First published at on April 20, 2013, this is one of those stories:

The Judge

Four hours, 10 minutes, 16 seconds. That’s the time stamped next to Roger McMillin’s name at the Boston Marathon this year

Maybe it shouldn’t matter this year, but to McMillin, it does.

The retired chief judge of the Mississippi State Court of Appeals needed to break 4:10 to automatically qualify for a return trip to Boston to run in the 2014 marathon.

He was well on his way when he heard the first explosion rock the area near the finish line. Then the second.

“The first thing I remember was over on the side where the bomb went off,” McMillin said. “They were trying to get the barricades apart and they couldn’t. There were people falling over, people trying to climb over, people basically climbing over each other to get out. I saw one guy with his leg twisted up in and around the metal. I thought he’d end up with a broken leg, or maybe worse than that.”

Washington Times Photo

Away from the chaos, trying to find his belongings took nearly an hour of shuffling down alleyways, looking for a route to safety, to say nothing of the bus where his things were being held.

He found them. Dug his cellphone out of his bag to call his daughter, Sally, who was standing near Mile 21 — at Heartbreak Hill — to watch her dad make the climb for the third time. She was safe.

McMillin compares the high of running Boston to being invited to step onto the field moments before the Super Bowl starts.”You’ve got all these elite runners, who are incredible,” he said. “And for a little while at least, you’re on the track with them for the same race. An incredible event. An incredible experience.”

McMillin ran his first one, the Chicago Marathon, on Oct. 10, 2010

“Ten-ten-ten,” McMillin said. “I’ll always remember that one.”

This one, too.

He finished at 2:51 p.m. He would have easily beaten the 4:10 mark had he not slowed when the bombs went off. But his time — 4:10:16 — doesn’t worry him all that much.

“I’ll go run something else and get the time,” he said. “Beforehand, I wanted to qualify to come back but I wasn’t sure I would come back if I did. Now that all this has transpired, I have a fierce determination to come back one way or another.

“It’s a tremendous part of the fabric of our country and we need to do what it takes to preserve it.”

Roger McMillian
New Albany, Mississippi
April 15, 2013
Age – 67
Bib # 19712