NAMPA -- On the eve of the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, a local runner is gearing up to head back to Boston, and conquer the marathon she missed finishing by just 100 yards last year.
Last year, a day after the devastating bombing brought her race to an end just before the finish line, Nampa runner Sheila Beesley-Smith told KTVB she didn't think she'd ever go back to Boston. But she's decided to go back, and run to honor the city, the race, and those killed and injured.
"We cannot be afraid. We have to be able to get out on the open road. And something as historic as Boston must go on. And I believe I must finish," Beesley-Smith said.
April 15, 2013: 'It was really surreal'
With the finish line in sight, having just crossed the 26-mile mark, Beesley-Smith was high-fiving other runners. However, she was stopped in her tracks as two bombs exploded right in front of her.
"We had done it. We had essentially finished the marathon," Beesley-Smith said. "And it went in just a moment from a race to a war. It looked like a war. On something that was so sacred to the city of Boston, but also to the world of running."
The second bomb caught her off guard, and she went into the fencing, injuring her leg. She says people yelled at them to stop running, but otherwise, the atmosphere was eerily quiet.
"You knew something serious had just happened," Beesley-Smith said. "It was kind of hard to comprehend after four hours of running that the race was over, and I had the finish line clearly in sight... it was really surreal."
Beesley-Smith, a nurse, says it was devastating to leave the finish line, with injured people clearly ahead on the road.
"I think one of the hardest was to turn my back on the finish line, and walk away," Beesley-Smith said.
Memories from 2013 and moving ahead
She's saved everything from that day: Her racing bib, her jacket, and her medal she received a month after the race. She hasn't worn it because she says without finishing, it doesn't feel right.
"I've never worn it. I've never put it on because it just didn't seem right. Even though I only had 100 yards to go... it just didn't seem the same, crossing the finish line," Beesley-Smith said. "So I just hang it up... and maybe this year, I'll actually cross. That's the goal."
Beesley-Smith has also created "Boston Strong" Christmas ornaments, and has magazines with photos from the bombing, including one that shows one of the suspected bombers running from the finish line, likely not far from where Beesley-Smith was after the attack.
In the months since the Boston Marathon in 2013, Beesley-Smith has trained hard, battling through injury and illness to log more than 800 miles in the year. She says because she didn't finish last year, she sees it as two years of training for one race.
"It's basically, if you look, it's been two years of training over 1,800 miles. In fact, my husband joked, 'You can almost run there. You can almost run to Boston as many miles as you've run the last two years to cross that finish line,'" Beesley-Smith said.
Beesley-Smith: "I'm just going to do it"
While she says she has fears going back, and finds it difficult to picture what it will be like to race again, Beesley-Smith says she's talked to her family about those fears, and has prayers from her friends at church as she prepares to race.
She is hoping for a strong finish, but didn't give a specific goal time. She hopes to finish and have personal victory in the race.
"I'm really anxious to be able to put some closure to this marathon," Beesley-Smith said.
In addition to conquering her own goals in Boston, she is also racing for the city of Boston, the tradition of the race, and for those who were badly injured and killed in the attack.
"There was the hurt for those injured, so bad. They lost their feet. And they lost their lives. So I go back for that. I go back for them," Beesley-Smith said.