Headed for Boston Marathon, two Pocono locals fret more about emotions than bombs

A year after twin bombs ripped through the crowd at the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring hundreds, two Pocono runners say they are not afraid.

At least two local runners will make the trip to Boston next week for the race with family and friends. After running in the past, both missed last year when the attack at the race's finish line brought the city to a standstill.

Marathon runner Jonathan Holland, a 29-year-old Pocono Mountain School District physical education teacher from Snydersville, Pa. said he has been asked several times over the last few months whether he is afraid.

"I'm just kind of nervous about the emotions that are going to be involved," he said.

Holland said he ran the Boston race in 2008 and 2009. During the time of the race last year, he was tied up with a presentation and silenced his phone.

When he turned it on later, he found 20 messages from people wondering if he and his brother, also a runner, were in Boston and OK.

"Just seeing some of the pictures of the smoke and stuff like that -- it just didn't seem like the same place," he said. "Every time I've been there, everybody's so happy, and it's just a joyous occasion."

Holland said he had planned to retire from marathons, but he and his brother resolved to start training after seeing what happened.

"The dust was kind of finally settling, the coverage was kind of going away, and we made the decision," he said.

Holland's brother got hurt and could not qualify, but he made the cut and decided to continue. His wife and family will watch from the crowd, he said.

He said he feels safe, given the number of security-related emails from organizers over the past few months, which included a ban on backpacks. That will make carrying needed gear more difficult, he said, but he knows safety is paramount.

Holland said he is also nervous about waiting alone with other runners for the start and the emotion of interacting with people who may have been affected directly by the tragedy.

And when he turns the corner to see the finish line and site of the bombing, he said he expects to feel relieved to finish while also remembering the victims he hopes to pay tribute to alongside the other runners.

"I'll just remember what happened last year and be thankful that I'm able to use my two legs to go from Hopkinton to Boston," he said.

For Joelle Fair, a 45-year-old runner from Scotrun, failing to qualify for the 2013 marathon by two minutes turned from a disappointment to a blessing. Her family, including three teenage sons, usually watches from around the area of the bombings.

The timing was also frightening, she said.

"It was just heartbreaking, and just the thought of the time that it happened would have been pretty close to the time that I usually finish," she said. "The thought of, 'What if I was there? What if my family was there?'"

She said her family will not be going near the site of the tragedy next week, but added that she does not hesitate to return this year and she is not afraid, though she knows it will be emotional as people come together.

"No one's going to stop Boston," she said. "And you're not going to stop runners from doing things that they like to do."

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