Malibu natives recount competing in Boston Marathon

Malibu native Christopher Eldridge shows off his medal after completing the Boston Marathon.

After crossing the Boston Marathon finish line Monday morning in three hours and eight minutes, Malibu native Christopher Eldridge walked two blocks to a nearby cafe for a post-run meal. Minutes later, hunched over a plate of chicken and avocado, he and other runners heard a blast.

“We all just felt a big shake,” Eldridge said.

That shake turned out to be two deadly explosions that left three people dead and nearly 200 injured near the marathon’s finish line. Eldridge finished his run about an hour before two homemade bombs went off in what offi- cials are calling a terrorist attack.

Eldridge, 24, was one of three Malibu residents registered to run the race. The others were Steve Arce, 48, and Tyson B. Park, 71. Park could not be reached for an interview as The Malibu Times went to press Tuesday evening.

Eldridge described restaurant patrons as confused but not panicked, since it did not become clear until later what had happened. Everyone in the restaurant immediately tried to use their cell phones and check social media, he said, but a spike in calls to Boston had jammed the network and rendered communication futile. With his own cell phone out of battery, Eldridge wouldn’t get to let his family and friends know he was alright until several hours later.

“There was just a massive attempt at communication being made but no one could get cell service,” he said. “I had 70 messages waiting when I turned my phone back on.”

Police evacuated the cafe, the city’s transit system was shut down right away and the Malibu native was forced to walk for more than two hours to where he was staying in Cambridge.

“Here a bunch of us who had just finished running a marathon and now we had to talk 5 or 10 miles to get to wherever we were staying,” said Eldridge, who had travelled solo to compete in Boston after qualifying for the event at the Long Beach Marathon last year.

Amid the day’s devastation, Eldridge said Boston-ites remained resilient and encouraging to everyone in town, especially people who had flown in specifically for the race.

“If anyone saw us with a medal, they knew where we had been and that we had finished the race. First they’d ask if we were OK,” he said. “Then they all asked us ‘how was the marathon, how was your run, how do you feel?’”

Steve Arce, another Malibu native and owner of eyewear shop 9026 Eyes, had finished the race around the same time as Eldridge and was headed back to his hotel room when he and his friends got wind of the explosions.

“We didn’t know what had happened, so … my running mates’ husband called her and told her,” said Arce. “We got back to the hotel and it was all over the TV, and we were like, ‘Oh my god, we just ran by the same spot an hour earlier.’”

It was Arce’s third consecutive year competing in the race.

Arce said in the aftermath of the bombings, he was not sure whether he and his friends would make their flight home to LAX.

“By the time we were leaving the hotel, every exit going into downtown Boston was blocked off,” Arce said. “But we didn’t have any trouble getting to the airport. I figured the safest place to be would be on the safe side of security at the airport.”

His flight landed at LAX at 12 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Eldridge planned on flying back to Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Arce and Eldridge, who do not know each other, separately described a fun, energetic and crowded environment of runners ready to compete and finish as the race began on a sunny day in Boston.

“It was the perfect day in Boston, everybody’s spirits were high, the weather was perfect,” Arce said.

“It wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t too cold, there were just the right amount of clouds, the crowds were amazing all the way in,” Eldridge said.

When asked if they’d race in Boston again, both were quick to reply.

“Oh yeah,” Arce said. “[My running mates and I are] all in consensus that we’d do it again,” Arce said.

For Eldridge, the actions of Boston residents in the aftermath of the attacks left an indelible impression.

“I know I’m going to do it again next year,” Eldridge said. “The people who live in Boston were all so willing to help me find a way back and offer direction, even after this terrible thing.”