Kevin Frick

Kevin Frick runs at the Dunbar track downtown. While he has reached the point where he no longer thinks about Boston daily, he can't get rid of the shoes he wore for that race. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun / October 8, 2013)

Halfway up Heartbreak Hill, an iconic stretch of the Boston Marathon course, Erica Greene was stopped by race officials, having just completed her 20th mile. The news of a bombing at the finish line had traveled down the course.

For a few months after that race, Greene, a teacher at Turning Point Academy in Lanham, let her running fall to the wayside. To have trained for such a long time, only to see her dream taken away, was too much.

"It took me a while to even go out and do three miles after Boston," said Greene, who plans to be part of this weekend's Baltimore Running Festival and to run in Boston next year. "Before I went, I'm an emotional person, I had a breakdown. I was nervous, scared, didn't know what could happen.

"It took me a while to get my running mojo back."

The mourning process hasn't been simple for those who ran in Boston, even for those who weren't at the finish line at the time of the bombings. On Saturday, Greene and other Boston survivors will participate in the Baltimore Running Festival, which includes a marathon, half marathon, relay, 5K and kids fun run.

Baltimore is one of the first large-city marathons to occur in the United States since Boston. The Portland Marathon was last weekend and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is Sunday, with other events such as the Marine Corps Marathon in the Washington area and the Detroit Free Press Marathon still a few weeks away.

Ericka Leonard also will lace up her running shoes for Baltimore's half marathon and celebrate the comradery among runners in the face of last April's events. It's not the first race the 28-year-old McDonogh French teacher has run since the bombing.

As Leonard approached the finish line at the Sole of the City 10K in Baltimore just days after the Boston Marathon, she thought about her friend and former roommate, Erika Brannock, who was within feet of the first explosion while waiting for her mother to cross the finish line. Brannock later lost part of her left leg from injuries she suffered when the bomb exploded.

"I remember rounding the corner to the finish line [in Baltimore] and stopping dead short, and all I could see in my mind was the image of Boston," Leonard said.

She said running is a way to honor the strength of the human spirit.

"I run because I can and I should," Leonard said. "You're tired at mile nine and you think 'I have legs and they work and I should count my blessings.'"

'An attack on the American spirit'

Jocelyn Rood, from Cleveland, Ohio, decided to run the Baltimore marathon with a friend who was also at Boston, because she wanted to continue marathoning despite the tragedy.

"It seemed like, clearly, an attack on the American spirit," Rood said. "This isn't going to keep us away. We are going to keep doing it."

When she heard the first explosion, Rood was a block away, in the family waiting area. Though the space was packed, the entire crowd became quiet. Seconds later, the second explosion came. Then the sound of sirens filled the air as volunteers urged runners to get out of the street.

The rest of the day was a flurry of concerned texts, calls and Facebook messages. At first, she felt numb. The memory hasn't faded in the last six months.

"What if I had stopped to walk in the race and I was a bit slower? What if they had decided to do the explosions an hour sooner?" Rood said. "In all honesty, there probably hasn't been a day that has gone by that I haven't thought about it."

The Boston bombing seemed particularly jarring because it targeted a politically neutral event. For the many people who see running as an escape from stress, it seemed odd.

"We're so harmless as runners. We just run and we're happy when we run," Rood said. "It just didn't make any sense."

Now, security is tighter in most races and many require participants to pack their belongings in clear bags. Though Rood said she doesn't feel afraid while running, she was nervous while cheering for a friend recently. As she waited at the finish line, she found herself searching for unattended bags or anything else that might denote danger.