There is a strong nationwide pull toward Boston and the people of Ahwatukee Foothills, and the surrounding area, are feeling it as well.

The 118th Boston Marathon is different than any other.

Usually participating and completing in a 26-mile marathon is a solo endeavor. Setting out to do something that requires endurance, resiliency and resolve with nothing but miles and pain ahead of you leads to an incredible level of self accomplishment.

Perspective changed when it comes to the Boston Marathon a year ago when two bombs near the finish line killed three and injured 264 others.

This year’s event is anything but an individual accomplishment. It will be a unique celebration and people from all over the world will be toeing the line and crossing the finishing line.

“To me, as a runner, it felt like a personal attack. It was an attack on my running family, their loved ones, their supporters and fans,” said local running trainer Susan Loken, who will be joined by Carrie Weldy, Dardee Murray, Kaylee Barton, Cris Caccavale and Cindy Scott.

“I didn’t understand how someone could viciously harm others at the very line where dreams come true and lives are changed forever. I still don’t understand.

“This was personal for me; this was personal for all runners. Shortly after hearing the news, I decided that I must run the 2014 Boston Marathon. From across the country, I watched the strength of the Boston community and witnessed runners from all over the world gather to show their support for Boston and its victims.

Though the bombing was a terrible tragedy, the aftermath served as a beautiful reminder of the strength and camaraderie that running offers. I have never been more proud to be a runner.”

Runners from around the world had similar sentiments, especially for those who were participants in 2013.

Tempe resident Nicole Armbrust, who worked for Spooner Physical Therapy in Ahwatukee at the time of the bombing, didn’t get a chance to finish last year. It left a void and focused her life. She has since started her own biomechanical coaching service and put her experience over the last year into words.

It gives some perspective as to lasting effect of the tragedy and what this year’s marathon means.

Armbrust shared her story with the AFN:

Many of my close friends and family have become familiar with me completing a post race story regarding my experience from the Boston Marathon. I have been so very fortunate to have completed the race nine times - each year a new story to write, and deeper in love - with the people around me, the race, and the city of Boston.

As the world watched the events unfold last year, family, friends, colleagues, and mere acquaintances reached out to ensure I was safe. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of so many people that took time out of their day to not only think of me, but reach out to me. It took several months for me to process what happened, but initially my responses often went like this:

“No luckily, I wasn’t hurt nor did I see anyone get hurt.” and “Yes, I finished the race.”

“Yes, I could hear it. Yes, I could feel it. Yes, I knew they were bombs. So did everyone around me, as sirens and people were running everywhere...”

For the few months (afterward), I was fortunate to have had the support of family, friends, co-workers, runners, and even the Boston Athletic Association. However, I was unprepared for the daily challenge of flashbacks, fatigue and hypersensitivity.

I’ve been a runner for more than 20 years, and like an old friend, my ability to run has been my “rock” and my “go-to” when things get tough in life. Despite a few minor physical setbacks, I have always been able to run by choice.

After last April, things got tough, and I was not able to “fix” my problems with running. I felt like the same “rock” that I trusted for years of running was crushed, along with my spirit. I made a choice, and rather than lift the mental rock, I chose the easy route — and stopped running.

I believe this choice could have been made by any runner, whether they were there that day or not — but just the opposite took place. The same could be said for the families and friends that were there, or supporting from a distance. A choice was made by volunteers, the people of Boston, the United States, and the world. They chose to take the tough road — work through it, and thus became BOSTON STRONG.

Much of the media focus the past year often utilized the word “victim.” I found it interesting that describes “victim” as “a person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or by some impersonal agency.”

I realized that all of us were cheated — not just those that were gravely injured, or the families of those that perished, the runners stopped on the course that did not get to cross the line, the volunteers, the medical staff, emergency personnel, or anyone who ever got to experience the magic of Patriots’ Day.

Our faith in humanity was cheated that day, but BOSTON STRONG taught us that cheated does not equate to defeated! Author and philosopher Edmund Burke stated that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

There is goodness in all of us, and over the past year we have seen countless examples of good that triumphs over evil.

All of us are in charge of “finishing our own race” this April. How we choose to complete it is a personal choice based on our own speed and pace. We all have the power to make a difference and we will each cross the line in our own way. But we must all share the responsibility to congratulate one another, continue the efforts, and plan for the next “race.”

Currently, when someone asks me about Boston, or if I’m going back, the conversation is now like this: “Yes, I need to finish the race.” It won’t be physically pretty, as my training has been minimal. But I could not imagine being any other place to celebrate my 10th Patriots’ Day, when the world comes together and we ALL finish the race.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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