Updated: April 21, 2014 at 7:14 am
The Boston Marathon memories that replay in Kerri Coady's mind never actually took place.
Stopping to stretch when her muscles cramped, popping into a porta potty along the course, perhaps slowing to walk for a bit.
She did none of those things, but if she had, Coady could have crossed the finish line just as bombs exploded, killing three and wounding 264 others. Even worse, Coady's friend, Julie Self, would have been in that area watching.
"Without a doubt, you think of those things," said Coady, a stay-at-home mom of two young girls who finished the race just seven minutes before the explosions.
"I was slower than I'd hoped to be anyway, but you start going through all the things that could have happened. Then I got a hold of my girls and their what-ifs ran off the Richter scale. That's when I got really scared."
The emotions that nearly three dozen runners brought back home to Colorado Springs area run the gamut from relief to fear to anger, and many continue to deal with them a year after the Boston Marathon was marred by a pair of bombs, allegedly constructed and ignited by brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
For Ilma Calite, re-creating her experience at Boston through an English paper proved both cathartic and motivating.
Then a senior fencer at the Air Force, Calite became more and more angry as she revisited the details of the experience.
"I'm in the military, so I signed up for this," said Calite, who was born in Lithuania and moved to the United States when she was 11. "I'm OK with having my life put in danger. It just pissed me off that these independent Americans were just there to celebrate this event, and these healthy, outstanding Americans running this race were put in danger. That really pissed me off. I was like, I need to graduate ASAP. I want to get out there. I don't want my fellow Americans going through this again."
Calite is a second lieutenant in the Air Force participating in pilot training in Texas.
Amy Perez also opted to put her feelings into words, creating a blog about the event. The tone of her words clearly indicate a frustration over the ability of two alleged criminals to overshadow April 15.
Of the 2,354 words Perez wrote about that day, only about 270 of them deal with the tragedy. And of those, a large chunk is dedicated to her appreciation for Facebook as a means of communication while cell phone reception was impossible to find.
Perez's closure wasn't going to come until she was able to return to the race, and she knew that immediately.
For months, Dorothy Neider found herself talking about the events in Boston every day.
"If I wasn't talking about it, I was thinking about it," Neider said. "I think that in itself was good therapy."
The processing of the event didn't come all at once, and certainly didn't come in the hours after the bombing.
Marathons are taxing on the brain, so information that would have been confusing in any situation was particularly difficult to comprehend in real time. On top of that, the off-kilter situation forced the runners into unthinkable physical circumstances.
For Coady and Neider, friends who traveled together, hours had passed before they realized they had not eaten anything but a tiny post-snack race. Runners' bodies already tend to have higher metabolism than most, throw in a 26.2-mile run and it becomes absolutely essential to refuel. They tried to send Neider's husband, Seth, out for food, but everything was closed.
The Marriott where they were staying was overwhelmed with room-service requests, so the hotel decided to hold a buffet and feed everybody. That meant another line of about an hour and a half, but about eight hours after they completed the run, Coady and Neider finally ate.
"Obviously with everything going on that day, that was not our biggest concern," Neider said. "I think you're just running on adrenaline at that point. It was just crazy."
Doug Weddell knew he and his family were in no immediate danger from the bombs. He was already in his hotel room and his family had taken a subway to a point near the middle of the course to watch him.
None of them were in the vicinity of the finish line when the bombs exploded.
Perhaps it was that distance from real danger, or maybe it was a mind trained in rational thought as a trial attorney, but Weddell did not find himself dealing with overwhelming negative emotions.
Instead, he took note of restaurants offering meals to investigators and National Guardsmen. He saw a city bustling with police and paramedics, but still in control of itself.
He was already a fan of Boston because of the way it enthusiastically embraces its signature event, but he was more in awe after experiencing the city at its lowest point.
"It really was this great feeling of people trying to help each other," Weddell said. "Everyone really pulled together to try to make the best of the situation."
Like Coady, Robin Krueger Romero looks back on that race and recalls so many things that nearly placed her in harm's way.
Imagine thousands of runners, all of whom have been hydrating in preparation to run 26.2 miles, all making one final bathroom trip before the race.
Clogged doesn't begin to describe it.
Krueger Romero found herself caught in that congestion and nearly missed her wave, which would have meant she would have started the race later and, instead of finishing 20 minutes before the blasts, she, and her husband, Kenny Romero, there watching, could have been among the victims.
"Timing is everything," the real estate agent said. "I feel pretty lucky in a lot of ways and pretty sad for a lot of those other people."
The emotion that emerged from those closely dodged what-ifs is tough to define. It would logically be the opposite of regret, but look up an antonym for regret and you'll find comfort, happiness and joy. Those do not apply in this situation.
Instead, you have a group of survivors still searching for the right way to feel about a day that left an imprint on the country, and on many members of this area's large running community.