Jeanne Dolan had four blocks to go before reaching the finish line at her first Boston Marathon last year.
Next week, the 57-year old Chicagoan will return to Boston with a family mantra in mind. It is a message her father scrawled on a poster during her first marathon, when she was 50: "Daughters of Marines never quit."
Her friend Joe Werner, a 59-year old Tinley Park resident, thought last year's Boston Marathon would be his last.
Werner and Dolan run with a group called Yankee Runners. Werner has competed in Boston several times and completed last year's race before the deadly bombings near the finish line. This year, he's running once again to support his friends, including Dolan, who are returning to finish what they started last year.
"I had friends out there who were unable to finish and when they said they were going back, I knew I wanted to be there with them," Werner said.
Werner had helped Dolan qualify for Boston by running the Indianapolis marathon with her, pacing her to keep her going.
"Joe believed in me qualifying for Boston before I did," Dolan said.
Before the bombing, Dolan said she had been having "the time of my life."
"People are hanging from every building and tree to cheer you on and then as the course gets farther along the crowds get bigger and deeper," Dolan recalled.
Dolan said she first heard emergency sirens between mile 25 and 26. The noise kept growing in volume and when she looked up, Dolan saw helicopters.
As the sirens blared with growing intensity, she wondered if a car had hit someone in the crowd. When the noise didn't dissipate, she knew something had gone wrong.
Still, Dolan kept running until being stopped by other runners four blocks from the finish, where she learned about the bombing.
Dolan made the trip east with her husband Mark Grohovena, a Chicago police sergeant who had just retired a few months before the race. They had seen each other at mile 21, just past Heartbreak Hill, Grohovena said.
Grohovena was standing where Dolan left him when all the phones in the crowd began buzzing.
"Somebody yells, 'What do you mean a bomb (went) off?'" Grohovena recalled.
Alarmed, Dolan asked a bystander, Lisa Klane, 27, if she could text her husband.
"I just remember she was clearly upset and nervous," Klane recalled. "She just couldn't believe it."
Even though cell lines were jammed, Klane kept re-sending the following message until it went through: "Jean is ok. Meet at the hotel? Text me back at this number."
Grohovena said he felt incredible relief upon receiving the text.
"All ok thnx idlike to hug u thnx," Grohovena texted back to Klane.
Although Grohovena knew his wife was safe, it was hours before Dolan confirmed her husband was OK.
Like many, Dolan knows they were fortunate to have escaped harm. She said if she didn't go back, it would be akin to "letting evil in the world win."
For her part, Klane plans to attend the traditional Patriot Day Red Sox game with her father this year, same as last.
Afterward, she thinks they might walk down to Kenmore Square and watch the race.
When the possibility of returning to Boston arose, Dolan said she knew she'd be back and told Werner he had to come, too.
"I'm there in a heartbeat and so are you because if I'm going, you're going," Dolan recalled. "I need you to be there to see me finish."
For Dolan and countless others who will be in Boston next week, there's unfinished business.