LeBlanc: A year after the bombings, Austin runners head to Boston for a very special marathon

More than 250 Austin-area runners are registered for the 2014 Boston Marathon

Just over a year ago, two pressure cooker bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 250.

The explosions rocked the city but didn’t shake the resolve of long-distance runners. Whether or not they crossed the finish line in 2013, they’ve found even more incentive to return this year and prove that the hate-filled actions of a few can’t stop a race revered by millions.

They call it Boston Strong.

The athletes are the sport’s most dedicated. Last year nearly 27,000 lined up at the start, and they trained long and hard to get there. Only about 10 percent of marathon runners can run fast enough to meet the qualifying times for the race, which vary by age and gender. About 3,000 slots are also set aside for those raising money for designated charities.

This year race organizers have expanded the field to 36,000 runners who will make the storied run from Hopkinton to downtown Boston. Among those running Monday will be more than 250 athletes from the Austin area, including 57 from the Gilbert’s Gazelles running group and 55 from Rogue Running programs.

It will be a run like no other in the event’s 118-year history. Here’s what some of the Austin runners had to say about it.

Paul Carmona, 50, running his fourth Boston Marathon:

“A lot of friends and co-workers know me as a marathoner. Over the past year, when they learned that I ran the 2013 Boston Marathon, many of them asked, ‘You were there? Are you going back?’ Before I re-qualified in September, my answer was, ‘I hope to.’ Since then, it has been, “Yes, I wouldn’t miss it.” None of them questioned my answer. Going back in 2014 for the Boston Marathon is my small way of demonstrating the spirit of what drives marathoners: Hard work and commitment that nothing — nothing — will stop us.”

Katie Carmona, 45, hit by debris at the bomb site in 2013:

“This year’s Boston Marathon makes me thankful and excited, and has renewed my joy of running. I am thankful for the invitational entry I was awarded by the Boston Athletic Association this very special year. I walked away from Boylston Street on April 15, 2013, with new perspective, a desire to connect with those around me and gratitude for the ability to keep on running.”

Mitch Johnson, 33, determined to finish:

“This will be the third consecutive time I’ve tried to finish this race. I was a charity runner in 2012, and two weeks before the race I was involved in a horrible boat accident on Lake Austin. My friend, who was driving the boat, almost lost his life, and I broke two ribs and my tailbone. I deferred my entry until the following year, only to have the bomb blow up 100 feet from where I was running. When I watched bomb No. 2 go off I was four blocks from the finish and one block from the blast. The police turned us around and I was not able to cross the finish line. This year, nothing can stop me from finishing the full 26.2 miles.”

Bonnie Yesian, 38, an emotional return:

“Running Boston this year is more than just running a race. It’s Boston Strong. What happened last year took away the triumph and joy that embodies the heart of every runner. Boston has always shown a love for their race, and there is no other place I’d rather be than at the start line in Hopkinton. To run the streets to Boston will be emotional, but I find greater strength from those victims who have conquered their own fight. My eighth return to Boston will be the most memorable, and I’m looking forward to giving them nothing but my best.”

Mark Enstone, 50, running his sixth Boston Marathon:

“By definition, no other marathon has more Boston qualifiers in it than the Boston Marathon! That’s some pretty rarefied air to breathe. Boston is a celebration of running, of achievement, of qualifying, of training and staying healthy. And yet it is available to all ‘recreational’ runners. This year, like all other years, the event will be at one moment a boisterous celebration of achievement, in the next a runner-to-runner quiet nod of a job well done. This year, unlike all other years, it will be all that plus humble gratitude for our circumstances that enable us to spend our time so ‘frivolously.’”

Michael Madison, 29, a celebration of running:

“This year will be my third Boston, having dropped out at Mile 21 in 2011 and then suffering through the 80-plus degree temperatures in 2012 determined to cross the finish line regardless of the time. Before the bombs went off, my next attempt was going to be aimed at achieving a personal best, because that’s what motivates me to run. But now 2014 means the ability to have a part in what will undoubtedly be an emotional day for so many, as well as an incredible celebration of running and the resolve to not allow fear or evil intentions to stop this amazing institution that is the Boston Marathon.”

Chris Garlington, 45, running for charity:

I was in the stands directly across from where the first bomb went off an hour before and even got a picture of the bombers without realizing it. Afterward, I felt so moved by the experience I vowed to try and get a charity slot to come back to honor those who lost their lives and the spirit of the race. I created the Life Liver Challenge, made up of six races ending with my 10th marathon in Boston, for one cause (SixTenOne). I’m raising funds for the American Liver Foundation and I’m thrilled to be running my first Boston this year.”

Matt Harmatuk, 41, thinking of the victims:

“I’m fortunate to be able to return to Boston with my friend (David Garza) … to finish what we were not able to complete. (It) shows that we will not let the actions of a few affect the continuation of this historical race. Thoughts of those permanently affected by last year’s tragic events will fuel me to represent them to the best of my abilities.”

David Garza, 37, unfinished business:

“Last year I had the amazing opportunity to run the Boston Marathon with two of my closest friends. That opportunity was taken from me and my running partner (Matt Harmatuk) — our other friend had already crossed the finish line (when the bombs went off). This year we were invited back. (We) have unfinished business to do in Boston.”

Talaya Frazier, running to give her medal to a sick child through Champions 4 Children:

“I have run Boston eight consecutive years for a reason beyond myself. What happened in 2013 made me reflect more on the importance of fighting for (the race’s) continuation, as well as Americans’ finish lines. I ran in 2007 for my own child, Cheyanna, who needed a recovery finish line. In 2012 I finished on a broken femur for another child, Skylar, who needed a recovery finish line. In 2013, I finished with the Champions 4 Children team that was seeking medals for 10 Austin children who needed recovery finish lines. This year is for every American who needs a finish line while battling the course of life. This medal is for new starts and inspiring others to cross finish lines.”

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