Rebekah Gregory inspired everyone who watched her run the last three miles of the Boston Marathon on April 20, two years after almost losing her life -- and losing her left leg -- in the 2013 bombings. On Sunday, an in-depth feature on her story titled "Rebekah Strong" will air throughout the day on SportsCenter.
We talked with Gregory this week about the incredible support her run received on Marathon Monday, the impending sentencing of marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and what's next for her and her new leg.
It's been a couple of weeks since the marathon. When you look back at it, how do you feel?
It all just seems so surreal still. I really wanted to run the whole thing, and I'm still so bummed that my doctor wouldn't let me, and then it was so hard to even run three miles because of the weather and pain. But I truly feel like I did take my life back that day. I have such a sense of peace and relief, and I really feel like my life is moving forward. I feel unstoppable.
How did you feel about all the attention and support you got during your run?
It was just insane, because people were sending me these links -- like how President Obama retweeted my story -- and I didn't feel like it was something that was so inspirational. To me, I felt like I only ran three miles.
But I've seen so much support the whole time, and the encouragement and sweet messages that I received -- it is so humbling. It's hard for me to put into words how it makes me feel, because that's the reason I am able to get up every day and put my sneakers on. It's why I feel like I can fight, even when I'm not getting sleep at night because I'm still having nightmares from the bombing. The emotional part of being in something so horrific is probably worse than the physical part a lot of times, but knowing that I have that type of support behind me, and it feels like the whole nation has my back -- it's incredible.
Was there a moment that stood out?
Yes. A girl in her 20s came up to me right after I crossed the finish line. The media kind of swarmed in, and she was standing with my family, and she was just sobbing. She told me, "I've been here since 6 o'clock this morning waiting for you to cross because I wanted to give you a hug and this sign that I made for you." She had made this sign that said, "Run like Rebekah." It touched me so much. I didn't know her -- she'd been following my Facebook page.
I don't feel like anyone's hero or a person that anyone should look up to. I'm just trying to make the most out of a bad situation and in the process try to help as many others as I can with their own struggles.
What did your son, Noah, say when you saw him after?
Noah just told me he was proud of me. He didn't want to be at the race -- it was hard enough for him to be in Boston. [Noah, now 7, was also injured in the marathon bombings in 2013.] The reason why I try to be strong is to be his mom, and I want to be the best mom that I can be. I feel like I've failed him so many times, so when he looks at me and says, "I'm proud of you and I love you so much," I realize I've gotta be doing something right. My heart just melts.
Did he watch the coverage?
Yes, he watched on TV, and he's now asked me to play the video a thousand times now so he can watch the video over and over again.
You were in a lot of pain that day. How are you feeling now physically?
I've had to take some time to recuperate. Running those miles beat me up pretty bad. I took a week off from the gym, which is hard for me to do. I'm back now and feeling better. It was a lot on my leg -- I had twisted my knee on my running blade. But I'm moving forward again now.
Do you have new athletic goals that you're setting for yourself?
I want to do things that I haven't done before. I watch "Dancing with the Stars" all the time and I'm a little obsessed with it, so I want to learn how to dance. And I want to climb mountains, and do all of the things that you can do with your legs. Things I've never done. I took my legs for granted for so long and now I want to do everything I can.
Are you following the sentencing phase of marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial?
Yes, I've been watching. I keep up with it, because now that I've testified, I want to hear other people's testimony and help support them. I plan to be there when the sentencing happens.
I don't have a hope for the outcome. I feel like it's not a decision that I am capable of making. Whether he rots in prison or dies, it doesn't change what's happened, so for me to worry about it and worry about his fate prevents me from moving forward with my own life. I'm just glad that no matter what, he is unable to hurt anyone else anymore.
What have you learned in the past two years about yourself, through all of this?
I've learned how strong I can be, and if you allow yourself to switch your perspective -- to not be so concerned about what happened, but what you can do as a result of it, it'll change everything. Use that saying that life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent what you make out of it. Bad things are going to happen. It's inevitable. But you can learn and grow as a person, you'll come out of it as a better version of yourself than before, and be so much more appreciative of the little things that you might not necessarily look at unless something life-changing has happened.
What would be your perfect Mother's Day on Sunday?
To just do absolutely nothing. Noah and I enjoy having lazy days where we go to our favorite doughnut shop down the street. We don't even get out of our pajamas, we just go through the drive-thru, and we go home and watch cartoons and play games and just enjoy each other's company. He always says those are his favorite days, and they're mine too.