'I Have to Do This': Mason Woman Returns to Boston Marathon

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When you ask Kelli Wheeler what she remembers about Apr. 15, 2013, she's quick to say it was a "great day."

It started with exhilaration, excitement, nerves -- all at the thought of achieving her dream of completing the Boston Marathon. And for nearly the entire race, Wheeler was on cloud nine.

"I saw my husband at the top of Heartbreak Hill, which is about 21 miles in, slapped his hand," said Wheeler. "I was super excited, still had no issues. I'm like 'I'll see you at the end, I'll see you at the finish!'"

Just past Mile 25, race officials stopped Wheeler and the other runners. There had been explosions and the race had to stop.

"It was chaos," Wheeler recalled Sunday, days before she plans to return to Boston to run again. "A lot of people were worried 'why did bombs go off? Are more bombs going to go off?' People had loved ones who were waiting for them at the end."

Wheeler's husband Ted was on his way to the finish line when he was stopped and told what had happened. It's a moment that still weighs heavily in their minds.

"It still to this day is with me," said Kelli Wheeler. "I'll have nightmares when I watch videos of different things that happen, I cry and it's not going to go away for a long time."

Wheeler was able to finish the final mile of the race -- in a way. She, and dozens of other marathoners, ran together on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last May. As far as records go, Wheeler completed the race, and she has her medal, but still, she won't permit herself to be anyplace but Boston Apr. 19, at the starting line of the 118th marathon.

"Part of it's closure: you go to Boston, you really want to cross that finish line," she said. "But [the bombers] took this away from us. And they injured people and they killed people and there's people now that will never be able to run again.

"I want to be one of those people that can run for them at this point and dedicate my miles to those that lost their lives and get back out there and show them you're not going to stop us runners."

But Kelli Wheeler's plans were thrown into jeopardy last month, when she slipped on a patch of ice near her home. The fall fractured her fibula and tore her lateral collateral ligament. But it couldn't shatter her spirit.

"I did say at first, 'this is over. Boston, the dream is over,'" Wheeler said. "But that only lasted a couple days and then I was like, 'no it's not. There's no way I can stop what I have to do. I have to get out there.'"

So with a brace to support her torn ligament, Wheeler has continued with her training, feeling pain with every step, and likely doing more damage to her knee. But she's determined to cross the finish line next week.

"Because I have to do this," she explained. "I don't care how much it hurts. I don't care if I have to crawl at this point. This injury is not stopping me.

"I'm still alive and still able to do this so whether it hurts or not I have to get out there and run this for those that can't."

Her husband, Ted, breaks into a smile when asked if she's crazy to run 26.2 miles on one leg.

"Yeah," he answered, "but she was crazy when I married her. She's a strong woman. It's great. I think she's doing the right thing."

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