Marathon runners returning to Boston: 'It's going to be special'

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on March 31, 2014 at 10:02 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 31 at 11:08 PM

It's a badge of honor.

"Everyone aspires to go to Boston," said Melissa McGaughey, who was running her first Boston Marathon in 2013.

She finished all 26.2 miles. Steve Harding didn't.

"I was half a mile from the finish line when we were stopped," he said.

He didn't hear the blasts... didn't see them... and didn't know what happened.

McGaughey did.

"I was on the phone with my husband and telling him how excited I was, just that the experience was amazing, and then... all of a sudden... I saw an explosion," she said.

Then she heard another.

"I could hear my husband yell to my brother-in-law," McGaughey said. Her family was closer to the finish line than she was.

"My husband said, 'You need to get away from what's going on,'" she recalled, "so I ran across the street and police helped me climb over a barricade. It was mass chaos."

McGaughey reunited with her family, and reality set in.

"My husband, daughter, and the rest of my family were standing at the site of the explosion about two minutes before it happened," she said.

McGaughey said she went to counseling for a while to deal with what she saw... and what she almost lost.

A year later, she is still running and still training with Harding and their friend Karen Owen.

Owen finished the Boston Marathon in 2013. She was already back in her hotel room with her family, when suddenly extended family started texting and calling with news of the bombing. She wanted to get out of town fast, but couldn't.

She had planned on the 2013 Boston Marathon being her final marathon ever. "Famous last words, right?" she now says, jokingly. "When it all fell apart I said, 'This just cannot be my last.'"

Harding had said the same thing. "To me, it felt like unfinished business," he said.

And that's a feeling marathoners don't like.

Boston is special. Only fast runners who meet tough timing requirements qualify to compete. In 2013, more than 300 Texans did, and then their elite accomplishment came under attack.

"The fun of finishing, the experience, the celebrating... it's just a whole release you get, and that was just taken from all of us," McGaughey said.

They want it back. So they're going back.

"I think it brings some closure, finale, to last year," said Harding. "It's going to be special."

Harding and Owen are returning to Boston for the April 21 race.

McGaughey isn't, but not because of fear. She didn't qualify this year. Owen did, and Harding got an automatic invitation since his 2013 run was cut short.

"There is determination to get there again," said McGaughey, "to celebrate what is still there."

"I'm not scared," said Owen. "I'll be emotional flying there and getting there, but I'm not worried a bit."

Marathoners are physically strong and mentally tough. They are resilient and ready to finish, because fighting to the finish is all they know how to do.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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