The 2013 Boston Marathon changed Rebekah Gregory DiMartino's life forever. She was right there with her family, near the finish line, when two bombs exploded, causing her severe injuries that ranged from burst ear drums and multiple broken bones to such grave damage to her left leg that she ultimately made the decision to have it amputated in late 2014. Now, still healing and on a new prosthetic leg, DiMartino has vowed to run this year's marathon. She shared her incredibly inspiring story in full detail with espnW recently.
DiMartino is on call to testify at the trial in Boston of alleged bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev -- and trying to emotionally prepare herself to sit in the same room with the man who's accused of killing three people and causing injuries to her and more than 260 other people at the finish line of the race on April 15, 2013. She's also awaiting a new running blade and a smaller regular prosthetic leg, both of which should help her as she learns to run again and trains for the marathon. We talked to DiMartino during this time of turmoil, and, as usual, she was thoughtful, open -- and very funny.
How has training been going?
DiMartino: It has been interesting these last few weeks because I've had some setbacks. They've been trying to get me into a new socket for my leg that is a lot more comfortable and smaller, because I'm still in the process of my leg muscle atrophying and shrinking. It's going to shrink quite a bit more because that muscle right under my knee will never be used again, and so, right now, I'm sort of in between two sizes of prosthetic legs.
I'm not quite ready to fit in my new, smaller socket, and last week I actually got my leg stuck in there! But all this has delayed me a little bit from running as much as I want to, and I'm having a lot of pain. When I take my prosthetic leg off, there are bloody blisters underneath from the constant rubbing. I know I'm pushing myself really, really hard -- I only got my leg about a month ago so everyone is telling me to chill. But I don't really know the meaning of chill. I've been trying to rest a little more, to still work out but not do as much. I don't really know the meaning of rest that well, either, so it's hard for me. It's hard to take a break because I know what my end goal is, and I know there isn't much time.
What do you do beyond running?
DiMartino: If I don't run, I strength-train and walk on the treadmill, so I'm always doing things that are going to build up my muscles and endurance. I try to do some cardio every day, though things like bike and elliptical all are equally painful to running, for the most part. Today [Thursday] was a huge achievement, though -- I was able to go on a school field trip with my son, Noah, who's 7, for the first time in two years. It was at a ranch, so there was a lot of walking. When I got there I thought, "Oh my goodness, how am I going to be able to do this?" But I told myself I wanted to push through it because I was there, walking with my little boy, doing something normal. It was me taking a piece of my normalcy back. I walked all day, and now I just got home and rested it a little bit, and now I'm ready to go to the gym. So it was a huge achievement overall!
What strength exercises are you doing?
DiMartino: I'm doing abs, arms -- so much upper body -- lots of leg raises and squats, and lunges and things to build up my leg muscles, especially my left leg, which hasn't been used in so long. Just about anything and everything that you can do. My trainer is insane! But it's a good insane.
What is it like being on call as a witness in the Tsarnaev trial?
DiMartino: It's a little nerve-wracking, especially to be on call and not know when it's going to happen. Before, I had a specific date, and it was a little bit better because at least then I knew what day it would be all over, and I could come home and be done with it. But now it's been pushed back and the waiting has definitely made me a little more stressed than usual. I don't dread it anymore, I'm just going to do what I need to do and say what I need to say and be done with it. Because me worrying about it is just delays my personal progress in moving forward. It's something I can't change -- I ultimately have to do it.
I just want it to be done so I can move on with my life. I think the hardest thing is going to be to sit in the same room with [Tsarnaev] knowing that he's pleading not guilty. It puts a face on this whole thing, and that's hard to cope with. But I just try to remember that he wasn't [allegedly] gunning for me and my family specifically that day -- that it was America as a whole. That doesn't make it any better, but he wasn't specifically saying, "I'm trying to do this to your baby." So I know it's not personal. But it's still very difficult.
espnW will be following DiMartino's training leading into Boston -- and get more on her Facebook page, here.