The explosions prevented Kimberly Grauer from crossing the finish line at this year's Boston Marathon, a race she dedicated to her father who died two weeks before the April competition.
On Sunday, she got her chance to end the race, but at a different famous finish line — the Yard of Bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — just minutes before the Indianapolis 500 began. As she ran with a U.S. flag in her hands, the 32-year-old softly cried to the chants of "USA" in the air.
"They opened their arms here, and they're giving us closure," said Grauer, of Schaumburg. "I think for some runners, it's going to take a long time. But these events help."
Five hours into the marathon April 15, twin pressure-cooker bombs were set off by two brothers near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260, law enforcement authorities said.
As a symbolic gesture, Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials invited non-finishers from Indiana and surrounding states to cross the racetrack's iconic finish line. About 35 runners, including nine from the Chicago area, took them up on the offer to run the half-mile stretch from Turn 4 to the Yard of Bricks.
"The tragedy last month in Boston still resonates with everyone, so we wanted to give runners the chance to finish the race in front of thousands of fans who will appreciate their persistence and determination," said Doug Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway chief operating officer, in a statement.
Meanwhile, Saturday, about 3,000 people in Boston gathered and crossed the marathon's finish line along Boylston Street. Boston Marathon organizers have also invited runners unable to finish the race to next year's event, a trip that Rose Vrbos plans to make.
At the Indy 500, Vrbos and many others donned the bright blue and yellow Boston Marathon jackets and T-shirts they received from the April race. She also brought her marathon bib bearing the number 20845.
In a way, wearing those things helped honor the marathon and the people who were hurt. But that didn't make getting ready that morning any less emotional, she said.
"I think running (in Indianapolis) with the runners like I did in Boston and crossing the finish line, even though it was not the finish line, it just helped to finalize things," said the 60-year-old from Carol Stream.
As soon as he returned from an overseas trip Saturday, Jerry Allanach, 63, packed his bag and drove four hours to Indianapolis. He estimates he was 21/2 miles away from completing the race when the explosions sounded.
The Naperville resident, who has been competing in marathons for more than 30 years, had planned to make this year's Boston Marathon his last. Now, he's determined to go back in 2014.
"I'm not going to let it end like that … have my last Boston Marathon end in a bad experience with people getting hurt," he said. "I'm not going to let them stop me from crossing the finish line."
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