PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine)-- Five years on from the Boston Marathon bombings, many runners from Maine are preparing to return to the race on Monday. Those who were there that day in 2013 feel a personal connection to this particular marathon.
Paula Rousseau was new to distance running in 2013, having only completed two marathons prior to Boston just to qualify for that race. It was a big day, one she was excited to share with her friend Barbie.
"You welt up. You just can't believe you're out there amongst the greatness of that particular race," Rousseau said of the feeling she got while running the 26.2 miles to Copley Square in Boston.
The two women finished in under four hours, but shortly after crossing the finish line Rousseau said she heard what sounded ilke a cannon.
"I looked out and said 'wow there's smoke, maybe it's a celebration?'" Rousseau recounted. "And within seconds another one went off, and right then you just had this sense that something was not okay."
A familiar face in the Maine running scene, Bob Dunfey had completed the marathon 50 minutes before the explosions happened on Boylston Street. He didn't know they even happened until he received a panicked text from his daughter.
"She's the one who first told me, and then the bulletins fromt he new services came in on my device," Dunfey said. " Emotion swept right over me."
Dunfey immediately worried for his friends who were still running and watching. One runner still competing was Phil Pierce, who said he was still two miles or so from the finish line when the explosions happened but didn't hear the blasts. Pierce said he ran until he came to a barricade with runners standing around it. He tried running throught the barricades.
"A cop came out and physically stopped me from running and said you cannot finish this race," Pierce explained.
In the face of fear and tradgedy, thousands of runners returned to the Boston Marathon the following year, including all three of these Maine runners. As Rousseau put it, she had to run for all those who were affected by the bombing.
"It's more about standing up for them and just being thankful and appreciative that i can do it."
This year during the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon, you'll see Rousseau, Dunfey, and Pierce in the mass of athletes running out of Hopkinton. Rousseau will compete in her third Boston Marathon. Dunfey crosses a milestone off his list this year: running his 28th consecutive Boston Marathon, and his 137th marathon over all.
At the age of 76, Pierce will do the unexpected: Run his 30th Boston Marathon. His reason as to why is one he'd be hard pressed to change his mind on.
"It's probably the best marathon in the world."
This year, Annette Emerson of Old Town, Maine is also taking on the marathon. Emerson was injured in 2013 by one fo the Boylston Street bombings while watching the runners cross the finish line. That's where she met Kristina Rynes-Petitjean of Wisconsin who was also attending the race. The two women grabbed each other and sought safety. While Emerson returned to the race as a participant in 2014 and 2015, this is the first year she is walking with Rynes-Petitjean as her guide. Emerson says she still suffers from hearing problems and high anxiety in crowds, having Rynes-Petitjean with her is a considerable comfort.
For these runners and so many more, the Boston Marathon is a race measured in so much more than miles.