MONTCLAIR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - A New Jersey runner who was participating in her third Boston Marathon last year and witnessed the bombings will run again this year.
As WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported, marathoner Mona Jha could see the finish line just before the first explosion went off on April 15, 2013.
"I was approximately (at) Mile 26," she recalled. "It was like a big ball of fire."
N.J. Marathoner Who Witnessed Boston Bombings Determined To Finish Race This Year
Jha was running slower than expected that day. She told CBS 2's Vanessa Murdock that if she had kept her normal pace, she likely would've been very close to where the first bomb exploded.
She didn't stop running after the initial blast.
"Having run for this long of a time, your brain just stops being rational," she said.
Then came the second explosion.
"There was no doubt about it," Jha said. "We all -- all the runners stopped. Nobody had to tell us to stop."
In a smoke-filled daze, Jha made it off the course and wandered around for nearly two hours until she eventually reunited with her husband and two children.
"I just felt so thankful. ... It's just a mixture of the sympathy that I feel for the people who were there at the same time," Jha told Diamond.
She said she's going back to Boston to finish what she started at this year's marathon, which will be run Monday.
"For me, it'll be emotional all the way through," said Jha. "I'm doing it, and I'm going to train the hardest I've ever trained because I wanted to go back and just have a good marathon, not have that same memory.
"I think I'm just going to break down and cry," she told Murdock. "Hopefully, I'll just finish first."
She also wants to set an example for her two children "to not be afraid, to not let things that happen in life defeat them."
Another runner from the Garden State who is competing in this year's marathon will run far more than 26.2 miles.
As Murdock reported, Larry Grogin is running 250 miles from his home in Franklin Lakes, N.J., to Boston. He is doing it to raise money for The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Conn., a free camp for seriously ill children.
Last year, Grogin was nearing the finish line of his second Boston Marathon when the first bomb was detonated.
"As this fellow went running past me with his fatigues and the flag, people were cheering and singing the national anthem and then, just a couple of seconds later (the bombs exploded)," Grogin said. "It was such a switch to this big celebration and feeling of anything is possible, anything could happen ... and it all just kind of collapsed.
"There I was in that moment trying to make sense of it, and I said, 'This is craziness. What are we doing?' And just plain scared and wondering what I was doing with my life."
Only days later, he decided he wanted to go back to Boston to run again in the marathon.
As Grogin pounds the pavement all the way to Boston, he'll be thinking of The Hole in the Wall Gang kids.
"Those kids teach you to treasure a moment or to treasure a second or to treasure an experience," he said.
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