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Boston attack won't slow Charleston runner

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nate Orders finished Monday's Boston Marathon in a little more than three hours. That means he was showered and eating lunch with his wife in a hotel lobby when he heard a sound like thunder.

He saw spectators running, not just marathon participants, and he realized something was terribly wrong.

"When I saw that, I knew it was an explosion," he said. "We wondered if it could be a dirty bomb and something we should be running from, too."

A big marathon event is always like a big party, Orders said. Spectators cheer, yell and drink beer in the street. They make all the difference to exhausted runners in the last mile of the 26.2 miles that make up every marathon.

"The spectators in Boston actually protected the runners from harm," Orders said. "The crowd was five and six rows deep between the runners and one of the bombs.

"I hate to think that what happened Monday will change the character of these events."

The Charleston resident has already run marathons in Tokyo and London, and he plans to run in Africa this summer. The bombing in Boston has left him shaken but undeterred in his quest to run a marathon on each of the seven continents.

He became a marathon runner in 2002. "I'm really a cyclist, but I had a bad week in 2002 when I broke my mountain bike," he said. "Then my road bike cracked, so I had no bikes."

He enjoyed physical activity too much to sit out the two months it would take to repair his two-wheeled equipment and didn't have the budget for a brand new bike -- but did have the cash for a pair of running shoes.

"I stumbled along and was incredibly sore the next morning," he said, "but it got me into it enough that, the following year, I signed up for the Charleston Distance Run. I've done that every year since 2003."

Orders grew up in Charleston and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in civil engineering. At 35 years old, he's married and the father of four, and is the president of his family's business, Orders Construction.

The Orders family lived near part of the distance-run route through South Hills, and Orders remembers going down to the road in the morning to watch his father run by and to cheer for him. Orders said he never thought that he would ever be able to finish Charleston's 15-mile run, but after he conquered that distance in 2003, he started thinking about marathons.

"I decided, OK, I'm going to run one marathon in my life just to say that I did it," he said. He chose the closest one, a marathon in Athens, Ohio. He described that 2004 run as physically the hardest thing he's ever done.

"It was a really small race and there were no fans. It was a mental exercise just to keep jogging and to not start walking," he said. "It really helps to have people cheering for you."

He drove home from Ohio and couldn't get out of the car. "I literally said, 'Never again,'" although he went back to participating in the Charleston Distance Run.

Then, in 2007, his wife's brother convinced him to run the Philadelphia marathon with him. Although his brother-in-law ended up not running the marathon, Orders ran it on his own. "I ran Philly in '07 and '08 and then signed up to run on all seven continents with the Young Presidents' Organization in the fall of 2011. Our first race was April 2012."

The Young Presidents' Organization is an international executive networking and leadership development organization. Orders was attracted to the seven-continent marathon opportunity because it combines his love of travel with the chance to go places he's never been. He also liked that it required putting fixed dates on the calendar years in advance so that he'd be forced to follow through on the plan.

"I wouldn't say that I'm that adventurous necessarily, but I really do enjoy travel," he said. "It was something that my wife and I kind of lost for 10 years because we started having kids. There was always a baby."

Orders plans to take his wife and children to Africa in June for the next marathon. To date, in addition to Boston, he has run in London; Auckland, New Zealand; and Tokyo. He still has Africa, Antarctica, South America and North America in front of him. He said, of the six major marathons in the world, he will have run in half of them with the Young Presidents' initiative; he plans to run the other three on his own.

"By the end of 2014, I will have run London, Tokyo and New York. So I kind of said, well, we're doing three of them, I may as well do the other three."

He also plans to run the Chicago marathon in October, although he is giving serious consideration to changing his original plans to take his children to Chicago.

"At this point," he said, "I also plan to the run the sixth, which would be Berlin, in September 2014."

Orders always wears a gold and blue WVU-logo shirt when he runs in other places. Although not a WVU graduate, he said he does it because he identifies with the state and because he has fun connecting with people who recognize the symbol. "Everywhere I've run, including Auckland and Japan and London, you get people who shout 'West Virginia! Yeah!'"

After seven continents and the three extra marathons, Orders said, he will be ready for a change. "I probably need a different project, and my family probably needs travel that doesn't revolve around a race."

When asked if what happened in Boston will slow him down, there was a gentle shrug in his voice.

"Oh yeah, I'll keep running," he said. "I am not dissuaded."


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