Sarah Buerger was only a half-mile from the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon when everyone stopped.
She was carrying a phone and after a few minutes of confusion she started getting a stream of texts asking if she was OK. She soon heard rumors of bombs at the finish line. She spent the next several hours in a friend's hotel room watching the news of the bombing attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.
"It was just really surreal," she said of the experience.
The run was the 48-year-old Oak Park woman's second unsuccessful attempt to finish the Boston race. The first time she was going to run it, in 2012, she broke her big toe walking up the stairs of her house three weeks before the race, she said. This year she plans to finish the race, scheduled for April 21.
"I am going to finish this damn thing," she said.
She is confident tighter security measures at this year's race will keep her safe.
"I'm not afraid; I think it's going to be the safest place on earth," she said.
But she sometimes thinks about what might have happened. She had agreed not to meet her husband at the finish line because it can be hard to find people there.
"Thank God he was not at the finish line," she said.
A mother of 12-year-old twins who works in IT security, she was carrying a phone during the race. Now, she said, she won't run without one.
Buerger said she has completed the Chicago marathon twice. Her training routine includes running 30 to 40 miles per week, starting most runs at 5:30 a.m. She usually completes a couple 20-mile runs before a marathon.
"It's just so frustrating to do all that training and not to get to the finish," she said.
This year, she's running a local 2.62-mile tribute run for the 2013 Boston Marathon victims before the race. The tribute run starts at Competitive Foot, 102 N. Marion St. in Oak Park, at 5:30 p.m. April 15.