DETROIT (AP) - A 57-year-old third-grade teacher from suburban Detroit whose Boston Marathon finish was blocked by the bombing attack had the chance to run in front of an even bigger crowd Sunday at the Indianapolis 500.
Nancy Smith, of Macomb County's Shelby Township, was one of two Michiganians among the 35 Boston Marathon participants who ran on a half-mile stretch of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, sandwiched between the National Anthem and the starting gun.
"This has been the most awesome, incredible experience of my whole life," Smith told The Associated Press from the speedway as the race neared its end. "We went down this red carpet. ... They were chanting, `USA, USA.' It was incredible. You just feel the oneness. ... I just cried and cried and cried. It's not sadness."
Smith, who has run 28 marathons and had finished 12 straight Boston Marathons before this year, said she realized that she and the other Boston Marathoners at the Indianapolis Speedway were joining the tens of thousands of spectators a message about American resilience and determination.
"It was more than just finishing," she said. "It was letting other ... terrorists know, `You don't have us down,"' she said.
Kelli Wheeler, a 37-year-old dietitian from Mason and mother of children ages 18, 15, 9 and 8, was also among the runners at the speedway. Relatively new to the sport, she ran one previous marathon and, after falling short of the needed qualifying time to run at Boston, won an entry position by raising $4,000 in sponsorships for the anti-cancer group Team Fight.
She had 0.8 miles to go in the 26.2-mile race and said she could taste the finish line when the bombs went off and police told racers to leave the course.
That began an agonizing wait for Wheeler and husband Ted, waiting for her near the finish line, to find what happened to each other.
"It was the longest hour, 45 (minutes) I've ever had in my life," she said. Wheeler said she finally reached her mother and brother in Gaylord, and her brother texted her husband that she was OK. When she later retrieved her cellphone, she saw 42 texts and 24 voice messages.
After the couple reunited, they had to walk 40 minutes back to their lodgings, where the owner treated them to dinner at his nearby restaurant.
Like Smith, Wheeler said running at the Indy 500 was a peak experience. She cried tears of joy as she embraced fellow racer Rachel Bolka at the finish line and bent down to kiss the bricks.
"It was the absolutely biggest thing, other than having my kids, that's happened to me," Wheeler said.