NAPLES, Fla - For Jill Wheeler, the Boston Marathon was a celebration of her 40th birthday. Earning her spot in the race was a dream come true for the Naples runner.
"This race has a depth of tradition and pride that I've never experienced anywhere in my life," says Wheeler.
Wheeler crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 35 minutes. "I had just made it to the hotel when the two explosions went off," says Wheeler. "People were just scurrying running scared. My daughters were scared, there was a lot of blood, a lot of debris."
Wheeler snapped photos from the 32nd floor of her hotel, just a block and a half away from the finish line counting the ambulances and police cars below. "I've been watching since it happened and people are running like get me out of here," says Wheeler. "My daughter is seven. She kept saying I can't believe this is happening, this doesn't seem real."
Gulf Coast Runners president Mitch Norgart was in Boston cheering on his wife Erica as she finished. He says, "it's on lockdown for sure. They're not letting anyone in or out of the hotels and were only three blocks away from the finish line and were on Boylston Street. It's unbelievable. When you're at the finish line you're on highly emotional state of mind. You can't imagine something like this happening."
The Wheeler's and Norgart's are flying home Tuesday evening from Boston.
Meanwhile back home, running friends gathered at Naples Community School to practice. Leap Frog Running is a local running group based in Naples.
They were worried about their friends and thankful to hear everyone was okay. They talked about the emotional toll and the months of training that go into a marathon and wonder how the explosions at the Boston Marathon will change future races.
"It does make me think twice about running a Boston or New York or Chicago," says Mary Iamurri, a marathon runner living in Naples.
"I'll run more," says Mark Russell. "People doing this type of stuff it's done to cause fear and the way to deal with that is to show them it's not going to slow people down."