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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Bill Iffrig, runner in iconic Boston Marathon bombing photo, dies at 89

A view of Boylston Street, where two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon occurred a day earlier, April 16, 2013. (Josh Haner/The New York Times)

By Rebecca Carballo

Bill Iffrig, who became a nationwide symbol of resilience for appearing in a photo that captured his fall near the Boston Marathon finish line in 2013 after the first of two bombs exploded and who soon got up and completed the race, died Jan 8. He was 89.

Iffrig died at a memory care facility in Marysville, Washington, according to his son, Mark Iffrig, who confirmed his father’s death.

Bill Iffrig, who was an accomplished mountaineer and chair of a local climbing club, did not start running until he was 42. He went on to win dozens of national championships in races of varying distances.

He ran in more than 50 marathons, including several Boston Marathons. Iffrig placed second in his age group of 80-plus in the 2015 Boston Marathon, his son said.

Iffrig gained national attention, however, after he competed in the Boston Marathon in 2013, the year two homemade pressure-cooker bombs were detonated. Three people were killed that day, 17 lost limbs and 250 more were injured, many of them grievously.

Iffrig was about 60 feet from the finish line when the first bomb went off, knocking him to the ground. The moment was captured by John Tlumacki, a photographer for The Boston Globe.

In a 2015 interview with MSNBC, Iffrig recalled the explosion and being on the ground, assessing whether he was injured.

Because he was not bleeding and all his joints were “working OK,” he decided he could keep going, he said.

“I’m going to get up and finish this thing,” he recalled thinking. “I’d been out there four hours. I didn’t want to quit.”

Soon, his bright orange shirt was known across the country.

He became a symbol of resilience. President Barack Obama mentioned him by name when he addressed the nation after the bombings.

“Like Bill Iffrig, 78 years old — the runner in the orange tank top who we all saw get knocked down by the blast — we may be momentarily knocked off our feet, but we’ll pick ourselves up,” Obama said.

Before his photograph circulated throughout the news, Iffrig lived a quiet life in Washington state.

William George Iffrig was born June 13, 1934, in Everett, Washington, to Clarence and Fannie Iffrig. His father worked at a cast iron company in Everett, and his mother was primarily a homemaker, doing some janitorial work later in life, according to Mark Iffrig.

Shortly after Bill Iffrig graduated from Everett High School, he began working as a carpenter for Weyerhaeuser, a pulp mill. He worked there for about 20 years before the mill shut down.

He later became a brick mason for Scott Paper Co., working there for about 20 years before retiring.

In addition to his son, Mark, Iffrig is survived by a daughter, Susan Shephard, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Donna, to whom he was married for 69 years, died in November. His other son, Curtis, died in 1979 in a car crash when he was 17.

Despite his accomplishments in racing, Iffrig remained humble, Mark Iffrig recalled.

“If he lost or won the race, he was the same person,” he said Saturday. “He didn’t talk about himself, and he just went about his business.”

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