Qualifying for the Boston Marathon was not on Michelle Hollingsworth's radar when she broke into a jog at the start of the Marine Corps Marathon in 2012, but it sure was 3 hours and 36 minutes later.
The 47-year-old hadn't expected to cross the finish line in Rosslyn, Va., so quickly, fast enough to qualify for the prestigious 26.2-mile race that begins in Hopkinton and ends on Boylston Street in Boston. The disappointment came later, when she found that registration had closed for the 2013 Boston Marathon. That feeling later turned to relief.
"I was kind of bummed after I qualified and I was going to have wait 18 months before I could actually run it, but then I was so grateful that I wasn't there and my family wasn't there," she said on the one-year anniversary of the twin explosions near the marathon finish line that plunged Boston into chaos for days.
Monday, Hollingsworth will be there and be cheered on by her 71-year-old mother and 17-year-old son. The Crofton native and Howard County resident is one of many runners who have entered this year's Boston Marathon for the first time, a little more than one year after three died and more than 260 were injured.
With organizers opening up extra slots — but not decreasing qualifying times — the normal field of about 26,000 Boston marathoners has swollen to more than 36,000. Of those, 600 are Marylanders — a nearly 33 percent increase over last year's number of entrants, according to registration data kept by the Boston Athletic Association.
"I think just runners in general just feel so violated," Hollingsworth said. "I felt violated after last year's attack. ... It's just so wrong that an event like that would have such monstrosity involved.
"I think it's just like this big solidarity movement of all these people that are doing this crazy thing, running 26 miles."
Richard Reinhardt hadn't thought of himself as a runner before the bombs went off, but he was still outraged. More interested in biking and swimming than running, Reinhardt took to triathlons because he found that participating was the best way to watch his wife compete in the races, which include running, cycling and swimming various distances.
Peer pressure pushed him into the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati in 2010. When he crossed the finish line in 3:39, he swore off 26.2-mile races. But again, peer pressure — he runs with a group that calls itself the "Crazies" — kept him registering for marathons.
He picked up speed along the way, but was still 15 minutes off the Boston Marathon qualifying pace for his age group when the race began last year. After the race came to a violent end, Reinhardt's attitude changed.
"I always assumed I would qualify in my 50s, when the times got down to be more reasonable," he said. "But I got just super motivated that I really wanted to be there this year to say 'you can't intimidate me.'"
He returned to Cincinnati — the site of his first marathon — and this time blazed across the finish line in 2:58, plenty fast enough to qualify for Boston.
"I did not expect it to happen. I didn't train for it properly," he said. "It was just shear will — 'I want this now, and I'm going to take this for myself.'"
Robyn Humphrey did not expect to ever run a marathon again after injuring both calves and struggling across the Boston Marathon finish line in 2004. Then 40, the Ellicott City resident used a wheelchair in the airport on the way home.
Ten years later, Humphrey will run on Marathon Monday. She felt she had to.
"My husband and son had asked me to give up marathoning … but when the bombings happened last April I decided to get back into it," she said. "I had to be there, and I had to run it. … I think it's going to be epic and life-changing. I think I'm running for many that couldn't come."
Humphrey, who ran the New York City Marathon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, said she isn't thinking about setting a new personal best; she's instead thinking about those who were at the finish line a year ago.
"I think just being there is such a blessing, representing Maryland, honoring those fallen," she said. "Quite frankly, I have friends who were there who are still suffering mentally and physically."
Tom Amatucci didn't run the race last year, but his cousin did. That cousin — with his wife and kids watching from the grandstand — finished the race about 10 minutes before the explosions on Boylston Street. Everyone in his family was safe.
"They all chased after him after he finished," said Amatucci, a Phoenix resident. "They were all shaken up. His buddy he went up there with, he finished after the explosion. They're going back without their families, and my cousin said, 'Why don't you come with us?'"
Amatucci, 60, will run Monday with his cousin and the charity group Cops for Cancer. He says he wouldn't be able to meet the qualifying time for his age (3:55), but charity runners get a pass.
"I guess it's kind of like supporting everybody," he said. "It's really the running community supporting the community. There's this huge subculture that exists. ... This year is kind of a special year. Sadly, it's a special year."
He's one of many runners who feel that way. Boston — a goal or pipe dream for so many who dedicate themselves to early morning speed workouts and long runs on Saturday — means a little more this year, for some.
"I'm so incredibly glad," Reinhardt said. "I thought that I would not be there for another 10 years. … Going to Boston itself is an amazing accomplishment for any runner, but to be there this year is going to mean more than any year in recent history. … It's just overwhelming."
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