Erika Brannock has not been to an organized race since April, when the first of two homemade bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line so badly injured the 29-year-old Towson preschool teacher that doctors were forced to amputate her left leg above the knee.
That will change Saturday, when Brannock -- who took her first steps with a prosthesis just last weekend -- serves as the official starter at the Baltimore Running Festival.
The decision to participate was not a difficult one.
"I immediately said, of course, that I would love to do it and it would be a huge honor," Brannock said Wednesday. "It kind of fell into my lap, and I was so excited."
Brannock said race organizers approached her in September. In a statement, Corrigan Sports Enterprises President Lee Corrigan said "Erika's amazing outlook on life in the face of adversity will inspire our field of 27,000."
"Her presence on race day symbolizes so much for Charm City and the entire running community because she's back and stronger than ever in many ways," Corrigan said. "She is a true hero and a phenomenal role model to her students."
At a kick-off luncheon for the running festival on Thursday, organizers also presented The Erika Brannock Foundation with a $2,500 check. The money will go toward Brannock's recovery costs. Organizers also gave a Baltimore Marathon medal to Amanda North, the California woman who came to Brannock's aid in Boston.
Brannock, who has returned to work part-time at Davenport Preschool, said she would deliver opening remarks before sounding a bullhorn to start the marathon and 5K races. She expects the morning to be emotional for her and, hopefully, inspirational to the runners preparing to trek up to 26.2 miles.
"I cry typically on the drop of the hat, but if I don't cry that'll be a miracle on itself," Brannock said. "I hope to start the race out in an emotional way, and give a little extra push that, while they're running, they can think 'Erika inspired me to keep on going.'"
Brannock, her sister, Nicole Gross, and brother in-law, Michael Gross, were all injured in the blast while waiting for her mother, Carol Downing, to finish the 26.2-mile course in Boston. She said the family decided they would not "live in fear of going and doing things that we enjoy."
"I guess it's kind of my statement that I'm not going to be afraid, and I'm going to be back and be a part of this as much as I can, because it's been such a part of my family for so long," Brannock said.
She added that the thought of helping runners along the route, and giving back to a city that has embraced her these last several months, is what allows her to push away any lingering fear of being near a start or finish line after what happened in Boston.
"It's just so impactful to them, and it's so meaningful they get all that support from people they don't know," she said. "They put so much into their training. The least that they should get is support from people as they're going through it. I don't ever want to be scared to go back and be near the finish line."
Eventually, Brannock wants to cross a finish line. She plans to finish a 5K with her brother-in-law, perhaps as early as November in Charlotte, N.C. Brannock's sister is still recovering from injuries to both legs, Brannock said.
And she's decided to make a return trip to the Boston Marathon next year, too.
"We've already made plans for where we're going to stay," Brannock said. "And my mom's running it."