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Albany marathon ties to Atlanta runner's experience in 2013 Boston Marathon

Georgia runner was half-mile from finish line when bombs exploded in Boston

ALBANY — Albany’s Snickers Marathon is the link that binds Atlanta runner Bishop Leatherbury to a dark day in American history, a day the headhunter for an Atlanta company vividly remembers each time he laces up his running shoes.

It was Leatherbury’s run in the 2012 Albany marathon that qualified him for the prestigious Boston Marathon. And it was in Boston last year, along Boylston Street about a half-mile from the race’s finish line, that pressure cooker bombs left by domestic terrorist brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev exploded, killing three and injuring 264 runners and spectators.

Abraham Kogo wins 2014 edition of the Albany Marathon.

“The aftermath was just surreal; the runners didn’t really know what was going on,” Leatherbury, 61, said after finishing Saturday’s Snickers half-marathon. “We had just run 26 miles and were only two-tenths of a mile from the finish line when about 25 government-issue black sedans went roaring by, followed by a bunch of ambulances.

“There was so much confusion, it was hard to comprehend what was going on.”

It wasn’t until he found his gear bag near the race finish line and read all the text messages he’d been sent by concerned friends that Leatherbury started to grasp the magnitude of what had happened.

“I was stunned,” he said Saturday, remembering the chaos that enveloped the scene of the famous race. “Then, I was angry, angry that something like this happened in our country. But I read a quote from someone later that I think fits perfectly: ‘If these (terrorists) wanted to attack the human spirit — the American spirit — they picked the wrong place and the wrong people.’”

Leatherbury said he ran the half-marathon in Albany this year because he’d run a full marathon the week before, the 35th he’s completed since he started running for fitness in 1979. He’s working his running schedule to coincide with a return to Boston on Patriots Day April 21 — to finish what he started.

“All of the runners who didn’t get to finish the course have been invited back this year to run again,” Leatherbury said. “It’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

Declaring himself “not apprehensive in the least” about returning to the site of last year’s devastation, Leatherbury is taken aback when asked if he’d take Boston Marathon officials up on their offer to come back. “Damned right I’m going back,” he said.