One year ago, Boston was rocked by terror attacks that killed three people and injured almost 300 others near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

A nation came together. And over the past year, the running community has become closer than ever before. Many avid runners share a special bond. They understand the hours of silent training that takes place, often in solitude.

Cedar Hill’s Kim Cahoon, who ran the Boston Marathon last year and is running it again, her 11th marathon, said she’s seen an increased solidarity among runners.

....pose together before last year's Boston Marathon. Courtesy Kim Cahoon
Kristi Kunz, Marianne Bezzant, Kim Cahoon and Kymberly Wells competed together in last year’s Boston Marathon. (Courtesy Kim Cahoon) “In the last year I have participated in other races, and at all of them there were Boston bracelets and memorabilia for sale with the proceeds going to help the victims of the bombings,” Cahoon said. “You could see that it was something that really affected everyone who participates in this sport.”

Cahoon finished 40 minutes before the first explosion last year. She was supposed to be near the finish line when the bombs went off.

“My friend (Marianne Bezzant) had started the race in the wave behind me, and I was so excited for her because it was her first Boston,” Cahoon said. “I told her at the start that I would be cheering and screaming for her at the finish line.”

However, after getting sick during the race and becoming severely dehydrated, Cahoon left the finish line to get food and water.

“I went down to the subway and after about 5 minutes they made an urgent announcement for every one to evacuate immediately,” she said. “No one knew why, but the subway officials were screaming to get out. When we got above ground again it was mayhem with lots of sirens and ambulances screaming toward the finish area. I just remember being so sick and scared.”

When Cahoon heard there had been a bombing at the finish line, she began to fear for Bezzant.

“I finished about 13 minutes before, and I was still in the finish area when the bombs went off,” Bezzant said. “I could see them. It was crazy. It was scary. All the chaos was happening, and you could see the smoke and the debris and all the people…the sirens and everything, and I just stood there. I honestly said to myself, ‘I’m never coming back here. I just want to go home to safe little Cedar Hills and not have to worry about this.'”

The many runners at the finish line, or halted along the route alone and in a strange city, were probably thinking the same thing. But many probably have had the same change of heart that Bezzant did.

“I really want to go back and finish and get to celebrate the finish,” Bezzant said. “I just want to go back and be able to have that great experience at the end.”

Marianne Bezzant finishes the Boston Marathon last year just minutes before the first bomb goes off. (Courtesy Marianne Bezzant)
Marianne Bezzant finishes the Boston Marathon last year just minutes before the first bomb goes off. (Courtesy Marianne Bezzant)

After finishing a 26.2 mile race and untangling themselves from the ensuing chaos, Cahoon and Bezzant walked for several hours toward their hotel before Bezzant’s husband was able to pick them up.

Many people would be deterred from going back, but Cahoon and Bezzant are maybe a little tougher than most. Or maybe that’s the type of heart that most runners, and Americans, have.

“I have a deep love for this country, and the men who set off those bombs last year did so out of hatred for the United States and our way of life,” Cahoon said. “I feel like the overwhelming response on behalf of runners wanting to participate in this year’s Boston Marathon sends a message to those who share those radical views, that we will not run away and that we stand united.”

Race officials are expecting record numbers for spectators, and both women think it’s going to be a special year full of support.

“We’re all in this together and we want to live in safe place,” Bezzant said. “We feel for those who are hurt by somebody who commits an act of terrorism.”

Both women said that supporting Boston, even all the way out here in Utah, is important because standing up for Boston is really standing up for America.

“All of us should realize how blessed we are to live in a country where we are free to participate in whatever activities we choose and where we can work to achieve whatever our dreams may be, whether it’s running the Boston Marathon or running for President,” Cahoon said. “Those men and others who share their radical ideas sought to deter us from those dreams with bombs last year. This year we will show them that it didn’t work.”

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