'It was so surreal;' Portland runner recounts close call with bombs

PORTLAND, Ore. - Brian Berchtold was on target to hit a personal record in the Boston Marathon.

Then, he entered a war zone.

As he neared the finish line, the first blast went off, sending shards of debris his way. The Portland man kept running as the second bomb went off just before he crossed the finish line.

"It was so surreal," the runner recalled after he arrived back home in Portland. It "felt like things were flying and hitting me."

Despite Berchtold's close call, he has no visible injuries and didn't have to go the hospital.

He reflected Wednesday on his ordeal that took place at an important point in his life. For Berchtold, the marathon wasn't just about running. The loss of his son several years ago left him searching for something.

"I wanted to find a way that I could give back to society and community and specifically impact children," he said.

As he began to train, he became healthier, losing 40 pounds, and it all eventually led him to Massachusetts.

He was part of a group assembling in Boston to raise money for Playworks, a nonprofit benefiting children.

On Monday, after he began running and close to the finish line, Berchtold thought he was having a very good race.

That's when things became chaotic.

"Once we heard that boom and you sense things happening, we just hit the floor," he said. "I looked around me and people had covered their heads and were rolled up and debris was flying everywhere."

Everyone scattered, Berchtold recalled. He ran toward the closest building, an Apple store, where employees ushered people into the basement.

Armed officers with rifles eventually escorted them out.

Wednesday, Berchtold said he's relieved to be back home but is still jittery about loud bangs or sudden noises.

He said he can't stop thinking about the youngest person who died in the bombings, Martin Richard. Supporting kids, after all, was why he ended up in Boston in the first place.

"Having lost a child and then seeing how that impacts other people at an event that was supposed to be about cheering family and community and all these things, it's just horrible," he said.