Matt Kinnaman hadn't planned to run a marathon this year. The 2013 Boston Marathon was to be his last for a while.
"My training had not gone well," Kinnaman, a 53-year-old Lee resident, said. "I had gone to Hopkinton hurt. I didn't know what to expect.
"I wanted to ... run it anyway and give it a shot."
He made it through, but not in a time that really satisfied him.
That didn't matter about an hour later.
Kinnaman was one of six local runners who had finished before two explosions near the finish line killed three and wounded hundreds more last April 15. He and his wife stayed in Boston that night as many searched for answers and suspects.
"It was a lot like it was for everybody else -- very surreal and full of that terrible realization that it wasn't possible to fully absorb what had taken place, and what the aftermath would mean," Kinnaman said.
The events stunned a nation, steeled a city's resolve and ultimately changed the plans of many, like Kinnaman, who hadn't expected to come back to Boston for Monday's marathon.
Jim Loring, of Lee, runs with his daughter Allison whenever possible. She lives in Manhattan now, so Jim, 56, often makes travel plans to log a few miles with her. They've run races together before -- over the winter, the pair ran a half-marathon in Naples, Fla. -- but this will be the first full Boston experience for Allison, 29.
She "bandit-ran" most of the final 6 miles with Jim last year, jumping in along "Heartbreak Hill" to help him out.
"It usually does not disrupt the flow of the race," he said. "Fortunately, we seem to pace very similarly. If one starts slowing down or pacing off a little bit, the other keeps the pace going. We bounce back and forth."
Jim got a finishing time last year, but didn't actually finish. He was approximately three-tenths of a mile from Boylston Street when he heard the explosions. He didn't know what they were.
"I thought it was a cannon," Jim said. "I said to myself, ‘That's a little weird.' I looked to the left, and I noticed police officers along the run route ... listening to their radios, then running and jumping into their cars and leaving. I said, ‘Something's not right.' "
As he approached Boylston Street, Loring was one of the first runners to be stopped by police. He could see smoke, and saw people running from the finish line area. It reminded him of what he saw on television following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York.
"It was very disconcerting last year," he said. "I watched every minute of the news, like everybody did. I finally got closure after the first brother was killed and the second was captured.
"It definitely motivated me to want to come back."
This time, he'll have Allison by his side for every stride of the 26.2-mile route. Jim was on his way to Boston on Friday to pick up his marathon bib. Allison - running as a fundraiser for Cops For Kids With Cancer, Inc. - picked hers up Saturday.
Monday's race fulfills a dream Allison has had since she watched the race as a Boston College student, but it means more than that this year.
"Ultimately, after what happened, there was no way I wouldn't run it this year," she said. "I feel like it was meant to be that I was able to get this state police bib."
Dave Milligan has crossed the Boston finish line three times. He's going for his fourth finish Monday.
The great part for him, though, will be finally getting to see his friend, Josephine Ellis, reach the finish.
"It's going to be incredibly emotional, I'm sure," said Milligan, 53. "My first marathon was at 48 years old, in 2009. I thought that was something. I ran it again in 2011."
Milligan and Ellis are also charity runners, running for the American Liver Foundation. Milligan, the president of Balance Rock Investment Group, and Ellis were stopped roughly half a mile from the finish line last year after the explosions.
They didn't have trouble reaching loved ones, as many did last year when cellphone service became unavailable for a time after the explosions. Milligan and Ellis had passed their families around the 25-mile mark.
"We saw the sign, ‘One more mile to go,' " Milligan said.
Once stopped, they walked back and found their families. After getting something to eat, they discovered their hotel had become a command center for the Boston Police Department and Gov. Deval Patrick's office. They couldn't get in until 7:30 that night, and they had to stay until around noon the next day.
By then, both Milligan and Ellis had already decided to run again in 2014. Milligan's plans to make 2013 his final marathon were put on hold.
"I didn't want to finish on that note, under those circumstances," he said.
"It was Josie's first, and she didn't get a chance to finish. We wanted to run again for that reason, and to show support for the running community and those killed and injured by the bombings. ... Boston just comes out for this thing, and this year, it's going to be better than ever."
This will be Cara Reilly's third Boston Marathon. It's the 29-year-old Lenox Dale resident's favorite race.
"I love the distance; I love the whole idea," she said. "As many times as I can do it, I'll do it."
She finished last year, and learned of the explosions about 45 minutes later as she and her father, Art, were in a Boston Common parking garage.
Her first concern was to let family members know she was OK. Then she wanted to know that her friends, who were set up near the finish line, were all right.
"Eventually, a text went through," she said. " ‘Hey, I'm all right. You all right?' "
She got word to her sister Sara in Atlanta that she was OK, and her other family members also learned she was safe.
"You were excited and happy you were finished at one point, and half an hour later, it didn't really matter anymore," Reilly said.
She'd already known she wanted to run Boston again, though. The tragic events only strengthened her desire to return.
"After it happened, that feeling was magnified as much as possible," Reilly said. "I knew it would be an exciting and emotional experience, one I wanted to partake in."
Kinnaman's plans changed almost immediately after last year's events. He was driven to work to get back to Boston this year -- he usually runs the Hartford Marathon in the fall, but skipped that this time around to focus on training for Boston.
And those plans to take a break from marathons after Boston? They've changed, too. The only break he'll take is his usual two-week rest after Boston before running again.
"I'm planning to go full steam ahead as long as I have the ability to do it," Kinnaman said.
The toughest tests of the course for Kinnaman come between miles 16 and 21, through Newton, and in the last four miles of the race.
"You've got the three uphills. They're not really killer hills, but they come at a bad time," he said. "That's when the nitty-gritty is really kicking in. Right there between 20 and 21 is Heartbreak Hill."
From there, he'll have to will himself to the finish line.
"In most marathons, pretty much everything is gone at that point. It's time for mind over matter."
As of Friday evening, 24 Berkshire County runners were entered for Monday. Kinnaman, one of five from Lee, expects a lot of emotion from a lot of runners. There's always the temptation to use the early-race adrenaline rush to go fast through the early downhill portions, but Kinnaman knows he has to keep a slower, steadier pace.
The emotion won't just come from the physical test of Boston, though. It'll also come from reaching the finish in a race that, for so many in Boston and beyond, means more than it ever did.
"It's an enormous sense of privilege, and a humbling one at that, to get to be a part of Boston this year," Kinnaman said. "I think we all feel that way."
The 30 Berkshire County runners listed as Boston Marathon entrants on the event's website:
PITTSFIELD (8): Christina Barrett, 32, F; Allan Bates, 65, M; Brian Berkel, 43, M; John Bosse, 34, M; Josephine Ellis, 41, F; Stephen Foley, 42, M; David Milligan, 53, M; John Soules, 36, M.
WILLIAMSTOWN (6): Henry Art, 69, M; Mary Kennedy, 55, F; Elizabeth St. Clair, 55, F; Steve St. Clair, 55, M; Sarah Voisin, 36, F; Eric White, 73, M.
LEE (5): Matt Kinnaman, 53, M; Allison Loring, 29, F; James Loring, 56, M; Jennifer Prohaska, 34, F; Susan Shook, 54, F.
GREAT BARRINGTON (2): William Boyer, 51, M; Liz Lierman, 35, F.
LENOX (2): Edward Culver, 39, M; Sharon Kennedy, 40, F.
LENOX DALE (2): Mary Sheehan, 53, F; Cara Reilly, 29, F.
DALTON (1): Melanie Bessette, 50, F.
LANESBOROUGH (1): David Wilson, 52, M.
NORTH ADAMS (1): Eileen Monyahan, 43, F.
SHEFFIELD (1): Allison Lassoe, 51, F.
STOCKBRIDGE (1): Mark Kinney, 49, M.
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