The Lookout

Photo: Boston marathoner’s eerie brush with terror suspects

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The Tsarnaev brothers look on in the background as Laura Cummins (No. 19751) finishes. (Bob Leonard/AP)

Runner Laura Cummins had an uneasy suspicion she’d crossed paths with the men suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon. A photo now proves it.

Minutes before the first explosion, a photographer near the finish line captured Cummins midstride with terrorism suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev looking on in the background.

“That picture just spooks me, seeing how close they were to me,” Cummins said.

Dzhokhar, in his backward white baseball cap, appears to be looking right at Cummins, who wore race bib No. 19751.

“Every time I see it, I get goose bumps,” she told Yahoo News.

[Related: Runner, spectator get photos of marathon bombing suspects]

The Warrenton, Va., resident finished the race in four hours and six seconds. Had she been nine minutes slower, she would have been in the line of fire.

“That keeps going through my head,” said Cummins, who was battling leg cramps and considered dropping out after Mile 15.

“But I bought one of those expensive jackets that cost $100. And I said, ‘I can’t wear it if I don’t finish.’ So I somehow found it in me to keep on chugging.”

This wasn’t Cummins’ first brush with terror.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the veteran flight attendant was flying from Washington's Dulles Airport to Miami. Her gate was adjacent to American Airlines Flight 77, which was hijacked by five Al-Qaida terrorists and sent crashing into the Pentagon. The attack claimed 184 lives.

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Laura Cummins before the Boston Marathon. (Courtesy photo)

“Being so close to that and being so close to this … I don’t know if I’m feeling lucky or I’m feeling cursed,” said Cummins, a 47-year-old mother of four.

Boston was Cummins’ 14th marathon. Her husband, John, is usually cheering at the finish line, but he didn’t make this race.

“All the what-ifs keep going through my mind,” she said. “I don’t even want to think about it.”

Cummins was two blocks away getting her race rewards when the first explosion occurred.

“I heard the blast and turned around and saw the smoke billowing up,” she said. “I heard the other blast, and I said, ‘Oh, no, this is not good.’ It brought 9/11 back to my head.”

She spent the next three hours navigating the mayhem to find a running friend who traveled to the race with her. The pair made it back to their hotel six hours after Cummins had crossed the finish line.

“It has me on edge still … very upset, angry, just a roller coaster of emotions,” she said.

Cummins takes some solace in knowing one suspect is dead and the other is in custody.

“I’m happy they are no longer a threat,” she said. “They’ve ruined so many lives.”

Cummins returned to work and was on an international flight a few days after the Boston attack.

The hassle of airport security and having to be extra vigilant since 9/11 can be stressful. The race-day experience is Cummins’ escape from it all.

“Running defines me,” Cummins said. “It is my outlet and my passion. As long as I am physically capable, I will continue to run races. Nobody will ever take that away from me.”

She registered for an upcoming half-marathon two days after the Boston terror attack.

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