Nearly 90 minutes after finishing the Boston Marathon on Monday, Noah Falck made a far more important run.
Falck, a Newark Memorial High graduate, was relaxing a few blocks from the finish line, trying to recover from his 26-mile exercise, when he heard the explosions.
But instead of fleeing the carnage, he ran toward it and began assisting authorities with crowd control. Police quickly cordoned off the explosion site and encouraged people to leave the area.
"I helped them with that," said Falck, 18. "I was OK, but I knew that there were people out there who needed help."
Hundreds of people streamed down the street, away from the explosions, and he tried to comfort those who clearly were traumatized, including a woman crying hysterically after witnessing the blast.
"It was somewhat chaotic, but police and firefighters kept it all as organized as possible," he said.
Falck, a freshman at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, helped lead runners to a prearranged area where they retrieved their bags so they could leave with their wallets and other essential personal items. He also identified a suspicious bag and gave it to investigators.
Falck, an ROTC cadet majoring in aerospace engineering, said he was encouraged by how many people ran toward -- not from -- the bombings in order to help. "I was just one of hundreds willing to do the same thing," he said. "That speaks volumes about not only Boston, but also the running community and the nation itself."
After helping first responders for six hours, Falck spent the night in nearby Worcester and flew home to Northern California the next day. He was met at the airport by his worried mother, Holly Falck, a Newark resident who teaches algebra and Chinese at Washington High School in Fremont.
Her voice quivered with emotion Thursday, saying she realized her son could have been a casualty in the bombings that killed three people and injured 176 others. "Even though Noah is OK, I really feel for the people affected by this," she said, choking back tears. "I feel Boston is a part of me now."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.