AUSTIN -- More than 200 runners from the Austin area participated in the Boston Marathon on April 15. Many are returning home and sharing their stories.
Instead of walking off the plane carrying a medal, they're all carrying memories of a horrible disaster.
"We just heard this huge thunder and a few seconds later, we heard it again. We really couldn't discern where it was coming from," said marathon attendee Jeannie Hightower.
"Going through that, you are worried about the people running, you're worried about the people that are injured, and you selfishly want to get yourself to safety," said Nikki Maples, who was there supporting her husband Keith.
Keith Maples crossed the finish line shortly before the blast that killed three people and injured more than 170.
"He got really emotional since it's a great run, and ending the day was horrific," Maples told KVUE.
Craig Potts from Cedar Park also crossed the finish line just a few seconds before the bombs went off, and was hit by shrapnel.
"It was a sharp pain, so I knew something was not right there, but I also knew it wasn't severe enough to where I couldn't stop," Potts said after running four more miles after the marathon back to the safety of his hotel.
Boston city leaders addressed the public in a news conference.
"We are asking that people stay out of crowds and calmly make their way home," they said.
Matt Harmatuk is an Austin police officer who also served in Afghanistan. He also attended the marathon.
"We heard the explosions. A police officer stepped in the road to stop everybody," said Harmatuk. "It was kinda like jumping into work mode. All the pain went away really quick. It was very surreal, and you know, things that people go through in such a traumatic incident like that, denial and 'This can't be happening.' We went through the mixture of emotions to figure out what we needed to do to help. You have that helpless feeling."
"The person next to me lost a limb, lost her fingers, lost all her fingers on one hand. We hid in a doorway," said marathon attendee Amy Berti. "My first thought was, 'I just watched my husband run through that finish line?' I didn't even know. The lady who was injured didn't even know she was so injured. She was in shock. A lady beside me looked at me. We both realized that woman didn't know how hurt she was. She looked at me and said, 'Am I ok? Am I damaged?' I don't know, we're all in shock. I looked her up and down and said, 'You're ok, you're ok.'"
All of these strangers have one thing in common. They have memories of the unmistakable sound of chaos, mayhem and human suffering. They also share one lingering question -- why?
Overall, the marathoners KVUE talked to were all happy to be alive, and their thoughts are with the victims and their families.
One runner says he will train harder than ever to qualify for the Boston Marathon again, because "runners never quit."