Last year, I wrote a column about Glenside runner Jill Beccaris-Pescatore before the Boston Marathon. She's an economics professor at Montgomery County Community College and ran her first marathon in 2004 after almost losing her arm and then her life when a small cut became infected and turned into sepsis. The 2013 race was the now-46-year-old's first Boston Marathon.
Her story of overcoming a near-death experience to not only run a marathon but run one so well that she qualified for Boston was, I thought, a great underdog story, especially for us middle-of-the-pack runners who hope that someday we'll have that kind of breakthrough.
Beccaris-Pescatore finished the 2013 Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 53 minutes, 5 seconds, and was through the finish line, picking up her checked gear bag, when the bombs went off. Her husband, Gerard, and son, Ethan, who had seen her at Mile 25, were on the train that would take them to a designated family meeting area.
At first, Beccaris-Pescatore thought the noise might have been something related to Patriot's Day, the Massachusetts holiday on which the race is held. Then when her phone wouldn't put through a call to Gerard, she started hearing the sirens, and she realized something had gone horribly wrong.
"I started to see runners coming at me crying. There was a collective panic," Gerard of the scene he and Ethan saw once they got off the train.
They eventually found each other through texting rather than calling. But information remained hard to find, especially since they weren't allowed into their hotel because it was near the finish line.
"Until we got up to the hotel room and turned on the TV, we didn't realize how bad it was," Beccaris-Pescatore said. They left early the next morning.
When we talked on April 10, Beccaris-Pescatore was calm as she related what had happened, her guilt at finishing the race and being unharmed, and why she and Gerard, who has run the race twice, are going back to Boston to run the marathon this year.
But three days before the anniversary of the actual bombing, she e-mailed me. She wrote that emotions that she had kept down were uncorked, starting with the feeling of euphoria in making the last turns in the race, and then the devastation that followed.
"The fact that I looked people in the eye who lost lives and lost limbs is devastating," she wrote. "Those bombers stole peace away from the running community, Boston, and all of us. They destroyed the routine where runners find their peace."
I've found this to be a common theme among friends who were in the race last year, whether they finished or not. They're trying to put on a brave face to go back and do it again. They talk about Boston Strong, and the importance of reclaiming the race and the sport, but it takes a toll. All of those runners and spectators - whether they were hurt or not - were at the site of a major terror attack, and the emotions are all coming out as the race is here again.
"I needed to go back to Boston to look those spectators in the eyes and thank them for all they did for me, and I need to remember those who had their lives devastated by terrorists," Beccaris-Pescatore wrote in her e-mail. "It is all that I know how to do to show them the respect they deserve for supporting all of the runners."
Thank you, Jill and Gerard, for going back, and running Boston again. We'll be watching.
Flanagan is from Marblehead, a Boston suburb, and will have the home-town advantage. She won a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics in the 10,000 meters and finished 10th in the 2012 London Olympics. Her marathon personal record is 2:25:38 from the 2012 Olympic Marathon trials. She finished fourth at Boston last year and is the top American hopeful.
Desiree (Davila) Linden
Linden is the closest an American has come to winning the Boston Marathon since 1985 with her 2:22:38 performance in 2011, which is also her marathon best. After dropping out of the 2012 Olympic Marathon with a stress fracture, she has worked back to marathon form, finishing fifth in the Berlin Marathon in September in 2:29:15 for fifth place. If she's healthy, she also has an excellent chance of winning Monday.
This cancer survivor ran in but did not finish the race last year. She's a two-time runner-up in the U.S. Half Marathon Championships and won that race in January this year. Her marathon best came in Amsterdam in 2013 with a 2:28:01 for second place. She also finished third in the Seoul International Marathon in 2012.
Adriana (Pirtea) Nelson
Nelson won the 2013 U.S. Half Marathon Championships and was the first American in the 2013 New York City Marathon with a 2:35:05 (13th overall). Her marathon best is a 2:28:52 from the 2008 London Marathon. A Romanian by birth, she became an American citizen in 2011. While competing for Romania, she was a four-time national champion in the 5,000, and two-time national champion in the 10,000.
Hartmann will be hard to miss Monday: He's 6-foot-3. He is also uncoached and unsponsored, but that hasn't affected his success. He was the top American in the Boston Marathon in both 2012 and 2013, finishing fourth both times. He could do the same this year. His marathon best came in the 2010 Chicago Marathon with a 2:11:06.
Hall is a two-time Olympic marathoner who has struggled with injury. He dropped out of the 2012 Olympic Marathon during the race, and decided right before the 2013 New York City Marathon that he wasn't healthy enough to run. He finished second in the Olympic Marathon trials in 2012 and won in 2008, and he has a marathon best of 2:04:58 from Boston 2011. His health is the big question Monday - he was a relatively late add to this race.
Mebrahtom "Meb" Keflezighi
Keflezighi is a three-time Olympian and fan favorite after having a later- in-(running)-life comeback by winning the New York City Marathon in 2009 after being dropped by his shoe sponsor. His marathon best is 2:09:08 from the 2012 Olympic Marathon trials, and he was the only American male to finish the 2012 Olympic Marathon.
Abdirahman is a four-time Olympian and has finished in the top five in both the Chicago and New York City marathons. He also placed third in the 2012 Olympic Marathon trials though he, like Hall, dropped out during the Olympic race. His marathon best came in 2006 at the Chicago Marathon (2:08:56).
Goucher was the fifth-place finisher in the 2012 Olympic Marathon trials and has a PR of 2:10:36 from the 2010 Houston Marathon. He'll be making his Boston debut this year. He's a past national champion in the 20K and has run for the United States on the world cross-country and half-marathon teams.
Arciniaga was the 2013 U.S. national champion in the marathon. He finished eighth in the 2013 Olympic Marathon trials and has a marathon best of 2:11:30 from the 2010 Houston Marathon. He placed eighth in the 2009 New York City Marathon and 10th in the 2008 Boston Marathon.
Eggleston was the top American finisher in the 2013 IAAF World Championships Marathon, where he placed 13th overall. His marathon best came in the 2012 Chicago Marathon with a 2:12:03. Last year, he won the Chicago Half Marathon and was the first American at the B.A.A. Half Marathon. He also won the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2011.
The Boston Marathon will be televised on Universal Sports starting with a preshow at 8:30 a.m. and streamed live online at