Nick Haney ran a Boston Marathon he will never forget.
The Gresham firefighter and paramedic finished Monday’s race more than seven minutes slower than his goal of under 2 hours and 55 minutes, but he did help save a life along the way. And in a twist, it turns out he knew the runner he saved — an acquaintance, Meghan Roth, from Minnesota whom he’d met through a mutual friend two years back.
“It’s just so random and wild,” Haney, 35, told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “What are the odds? Out of 15,000-plus running, and she went down? And I would be one of the people who came to help?”
Haney and Roth have since talked a few times and texted back and forth.
“Neither one of us has fully been able to wrap our heads around it,” Haney said.
The race was uneventful until about 7.5 miles in, when Haney said he noticed someone stopped on the course directing runners around a woman, who was on the ground in cardiac arrest. Her face was tinted blue. Two people were performing CPR. Haney dove in to help.
“I didn’t even think about the race at that point,” said Haney, a firefighter of 14 years, five with the city of Gresham. “There will be other races. It was just ‘This person needs help.’”
When he took a look at the downed runner, Roth, he realized he knew her. He and a mutual running friend had had dinner with Haney when they were in Illinois for the 2019 Chicago Marathon. He saw her again at the U.S. Olympic trials in 2020, where she was competing and Haney was there to watch other friends. Like Haney, Roth also is in her 30s.
Shortly after Haney stopped to help Roth, a doctor stopped, then a physician assistant, who Haney also knew because he was a teammate of Haney’s and had traveled by bus to the starting line with him. The doctor struck Roth’s sternum, in a lifesaving attempt called a precordial thump, then Haney and the physician assistant took turns giving her chest compressions. The bluish color in Roth’s face began to disappear, Haney said.
Within five minutes of Haney’s arrival, an ambulance pulled up and the local paramedics took over. Not wanting to get in the way, he started running again.
“I just took off,” Haney said. So did his teammate, the physician assistant. Together, they processed what had just happened.
“We talked about it for the next few miles,” Haney said.
After a Boston hospital stay, Roth is now back at her Minneapolis area home recovering. Saturday, she posted a photo of herself on Instagram beaming next to her 9-month-old son, saying she is so happy to be home with him. Although she wrote that she can’t yet “completely carry & hold” him, she is looking forward to healing quickly. She is hopeful, too, that she will be able to train again.
Roth also has expressed her immense gratitude to Haney.
When Haney posted a photo of himself on Instagram crossing the finish line, he wrote: “I’ve more or less been at a loss for words since Monday but what I can say is, this one meant a lot more and I’ll never forget it!” Roth responded “You saved my life. I am forever grateful for you!!!”
The story has spread in Minnesota, in Oregon and across the nation and the running world. Haney’s local firefighters union has showered him with praise, calling him “awesome.” The American Heart Association in Oregon & Southwest Washington tweeted “Bravo, Nick Haney!”
Haney said it was all a matter of chance.
“Right place,” he said, “right time.”
Editor’s note: An earlier headline incorrectly listed Washington State instead of Oregon.