About 950 runners from Illinois participated in the Boston Marathon Monday, and some were already back home in the Chicago area Tuesday sharing their stories.
Many said they found themselves very close to the attack when it happened. They described the chaos and the aftermath of the blasts.
"They started bringing the people who had been injured in the explosion to the middle of the medical tent, and the most severe people were taken immediately to the hospital. So, I saw one man in a wheel chair with two severed legs," said runner Frank Kuhlmann, who is from Chicago. "It was two loud blasts, as we know, and it shook the medical tent, but no one knew exactly what happened."
"People running in every direction. People crying. Panicked, shocked. More police and FBI," runner Karl Flener said.
"It sounded to me like a cannon was going off, and for some reason, I wasn't scared. It was like it wasn't happening...it was very unusual. And I grabbed my mom and told her we should probably get out of there," said runner and Crystal Lake resident Matt Lavine.
Jeff Mescal, 47, from northwest Indiana was inside the famous Cheers bar celebrating his finish when the bombs exploded.
"When I woke up today, there was just this bad feeling. I mean, after a race, I usually feel pretty good that I finished and was successful, but it's not that way this time," he said.
All of the returning runners said they were grateful to be home, reflecting on what was supposed to be a happy day.
"I don't think you can make sense of crazy. I just hope they catch who did it. This was an awful thing for everyone," said Katy Gentile of Chicago.
Bob Hart, a Hinsdale resident, finished the race before the blasts and was eating with his family two blocks away when the attack happened. Despite Monday's tragedy, he said he was looking toward the future.
"I would like to run Boston again next year. I grew up in Boston area, and it would mean a lot to me to go back and run it again," Hart said.