Since the Boston Marathon bombings on Monday, April 15 Lake Stevens resident and marathon runner Bill Iffrig has been very popular. A photo of 78-year-old Iffrig on the ground seconds after the explosion, went viral within minutes. It was popping up on news sites and social media all over the world.
Since that day Iffrig’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing and he is receiving mail daily, asking for autographs of that now famous photo on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
It has been a little over two weeks since the marathon bombings and Iffrig is glad to be home, taking morning walks to Haggen’s for coffee and preparing for his next race coming up in Spokane on May 5.
Iffrig moved to Lake Stevens in 1964 and lived in an old farmhouse while he built the home he still lives in today. He spent most of his life in the Pacific Northwest, working at Weyerhauser and Scott Paper in Everett, retiring in 1994. He and his wife raised three children in that home, one of which they lost shortly after high school. His other two children still live close.
“We get to see them often...which is nice,” Iffrig said.
Iffrig started running as a way to get into shape for mountain climbing. “I had some friends pushing me to do it, so I did and it turned out I was good at running and it fit into my lifestyle,” he said.
He has taken part in races all over the country including the USA Track and Field events, local events like Aquafest’s Aquarun and the Rural Master Runner Championships where he took home medals in the 5k, 10k and 8k cross country events.
Before the Boston Marathon Iffrig trained for four months, running 40-50 miles a week. “I never run less than 6 miles at a time, sometimes from my house to Snohomish or from my house around the lake.”
On the day of the Boston race he was in high spirits.
“I was in great shape and it was a beautiful day. I was feeling energetic and I thought ‘this is going to be a good one for me, a good race.’ I was keeping a good pace on the flat parts and charging up the hills,” Iffrig said.
Nearing the end of the race Iffrig turned the last corner onto Boylston and saw the finish line a quarter of a mile up ahead.
“At this point I was four hours in, but still feeling good,”
Then the bomb went off.
“It was about 20 feet before the finish line and I heard the blast. It was deafening, my hearing hasn’t been the same since,” Iffrig said. “Almost instantly my legs started to quiver like a bowl full of jelly and I went down...and I thought ‘this could be it for you buddy’.”
“I laid there and started checking to make sure everything was working, I started to get up and I didn’t see any injuries.”
That is when the finish line attendant came to Iffrig, he offered him a wheelchair. “He brought me a wheelchair, but there was so much carnage, people were starting to be wheeled out covered in blood and missing their legs and I told him there were people who needed it more than me,” he explained.
First responders had started filling the streets and there was chaos everywhere, but Iffrig wanted to cross the finish line.
“My goal was to finish that race, so it was important for me to get over that finish line,” Iffrig said.
He walked the remaining 20 feet across the finish line and the six blocks to his hotel to reunite with his wife.
“She decided to stay in the hotel that day, which I am happy about, if she came to the race it could have been really bad,” Iffrig said.
He called his son, who had already seen the reports on the news. “He said, ‘Dad...you are so lucky.” Iffrig agreed, “I am really damn lucky.”
Iffrig and his wife stayed in Boston until Friday, everywhere they went people recognized him.
“The people there were so good to us, we would go to dinner and people would say, ‘Hey, you’re Bill Iffrig.’”
On the flight home the flight attendant told Iffrig he could have anything he wanted and the captain told the flight attendants to “take care of those people.”