"I looked over my left shoulder and heard the blast and saw the smoke and then I saw the next one go off," he said Wednesday after arriving home from Boston on Tuesday. He was one of about 500 runners with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team.
"We were heading down Boylston Street, trying to get our race bags that were on the Dana-Farber bus. It was cold and we were all shaking and cold," Cligny said. "That's really when there was a lot of panic going on, people were terrified, screaming, 'Run, run!' I actually had to climb up on the bus to avoid being trampled."
Despite the fear and the panic of the crowd, Cligny is already planning to run the marathon next year.
"Absolutely I'd run. It's the mother of all marathons," he said. "I can even see next year being bigger and better, a tremendous testimony to the people who lost their lives or were hurt."
Cligny described the second explosion as "real loud, real, real loud."
"There was just so much confusion when the bombs went off. We all thought it was a man-made explosive," he said.
He added that the confusion was made worse by the fact that most of those around had just finished the 26.2 mile run.
"You're kind of incoherent anyway," Cligny said.
He said he was worried about his family members and friends who knew he'd finished just before the first bomb, and said that was compounded by the fact that cell phone service was immediately cut off to prevent the possibility of another bomb being remotely detonated by phone.
Cligny is grateful for the outpouring of support that followed him and the other runners in the aftermath of the bombings.
"The hotel personnel was concerned, they checked on us," Cligny said, adding, "There was just a lot of rumors that were flying."
"The mood of the town was pensive, people were somber and quiet," he said. "Everybody was helpful. It seemed the city was getting back on its feet and getting down to business and trying to find the perpetrator or perpetrators."
Although he was initially worried about flying home -- the airspace over Boston was closed immediately following the bombings -- he made it home without problems.
"I was able to get a cab and get to the airport," Cligny said.
Police were stopping passengers to see if they had photos on their cell phones or other information to provide that might be helpful in the investigation.
"Before I hit security, one of the marshals, he introduced himself to me -- I was wearing my race shirt -- he asked if I could help in any way. I told him I was sorry I couldn't be of more help."
Three people were killed by the blasts and more than 170 people were injured, including Aaron Hern, a sixth-grader at Martinez Junior High School who was in Boston with his parents and sister to watch his mother compete.
Cligny was one of eight runners from Pleasanton who registered for the race. The other seven are Utahna Cligny, Erin Lyions, J. Patrick McCarthy, Nancy Morehead, Lynn Muise, Karen Richards and Robyn Roybal. Utahna Cligny, John's wife, opted out of the race and all the others successfully completed it.
Cligny said he had wondered about the possibility of a terrorist attack days before the event, noting the number of people there and the notoriety of the event.
"It's really a crazy thing, I can't even fathom it," he said about his idle speculation.
Cligny ran the marathon to raise money for cancer research. His daughter Ashley, 22, has been diagnosed with a malignant inoperable brain tumor.
"That's really was what spurred me on," he said.
Cligny raised $10,000 in his run, and said he was confident that donors will fulfill their commitment for runners who were blocked by police and unable to finish the run.
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