The first time Rebekah Gregory visited Boston was in 2013 for the Boston Marathon. She was near the finish line, cheering on her then-boyfriend's mother, when two bombs exploded -- and she almost lost her life. Now, two years later, she's had more than 35 surgeries to repair the injuries from that day, including one to amputate her left leg.
Earlier this year, she told us the story of that day and talked about her new goal: to run the 2015 Boston Marathon on her new prosthetic leg. We've checked in with her along the way -- through training setbacks and the stress of testifying in the trial of bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
On Monday, Gregory (formerly Rebekah DiMartino) will be at the Boston Marathon, able to participate in the race on her new running blade. We caught up with her as she arrived in town to find out how she felt to be back at the site of the bombings, now able to run again.
How are you feeling, knowing it's finally marathon weekend?
I'm really excited about it. My whole family is here together for the first time since the bombing -- including my dad, my sister, my mom and my son, Noah, so it's been an incredible experience so far.
Two years ago, I was here in Boston, lying on the pavement, fighting for my life. One year ago, I was in a wheelchair, not knowing what was going to happen with my injuries. Now I'm here, running in the marathon. It's very surreal when I look back on it all. I tell everyone the only thing that's going to be hitting the pavement this time is my running shoes.
What's your plan for the race?
I had a meeting with my doctor this week and was really bummed with the news that I got. He basically told me I was not allowed to run the whole marathon like I had originally planned and trained for. He said I wasn't healed enough for that, and I would end up causing more damage if I did it, so I'm only going to run the last 3½ miles and then cross the finish line.
It's still a huge victory for me because I'm so new with my prosthetic. I'll be using my running blade, Forrest. (I call it that because of "Run, Forrest, Run!" in "Forrest Gump.")
Then next year I'll try to run the whole marathon.
You'd talked previously about how painful running is on the prosthetic. Are you still in as much pain?
Oh, absolutely. It's very painful to run. If I get to a certain point, my leg busts open and bleeds everywhere. It's hard though, because I was in this limbo wheelchair state for the better part of two years, and now that I can move around and run I want to do everything. So trying to find that balance is hard -- I don't think I've found it yet!
What thought will go through your mind when you cross the finish line?
It's a very big step forward for me. It's me taking a piece of my life back. Every time I come back to Boston -- for the bombing trial, or now for the marathon -- I'm saying that this has not defeated me. It's made me stronger, and I'll keep getting stronger. There's no stopping me.
espnW will be following DiMartino's training leading into Boston -- and get more here, on her Facebook page.