CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nate Orders finished Monday's Boston Marathon in a little more than three hours. That means he was showered and eating lunch with his wife in a hotel lobby when he heard a sound like thunder.
He saw spectators running, not just marathon participants, and he realized something was terribly wrong.
"When I saw that, I knew it was an explosion," he said. "We wondered if it could be a dirty bomb and something we should be running from, too."
A big marathon event is always like a big party, Orders said. Spectators cheer, yell and drink beer in the street. They make all the difference to exhausted runners in the last mile of the 26.2 miles that make up every marathon.
"The spectators in Boston actually protected the runners from harm," Orders said. "The crowd was five and six rows deep between the runners and one of the bombs.
"I hate to think that what happened Monday will change the character of these events."
The Charleston resident has already run marathons in Tokyo and London, and he plans to run in Africa this summer. The bombing in Boston has left him shaken but undeterred in his quest to run a marathon on each of the seven continents.
He became a marathon runner in 2002. "I'm really a cyclist, but I had a bad week in 2002 when I broke my mountain bike," he said. "Then my road bike cracked, so I had no bikes."
He enjoyed physical activity too much to sit out the two months it would take to repair his two-wheeled equipment and didn't have the budget for a brand new bike -- but did have the cash for a pair of running shoes.
"I stumbled along and was incredibly sore the next morning," he said, "but it got me into it enough that, the following year, I signed up for the Charleston Distance Run. I've done that every year since 2003."
Orders grew up in Charleston and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in civil engineering. At 35 years old, he's married and the father of four, and is the president of his family's business, Orders Construction.
The Orders family lived near part of the distance-run route through South Hills, and Orders remembers going down to the road in the morning to watch his father run by and to cheer for him. Orders said he never thought that he would ever be able to finish Charleston's 15-mile run, but after he conquered that distance in 2003, he started thinking about marathons.
"I decided, OK, I'm going to run one marathon in my life just to say that I did it," he said. He chose the closest one, a marathon in Athens, Ohio. He described that 2004 run as physically the hardest thing he's ever done.