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Boston Marathon Bombing Bystander, Injured In Blast, Runs Again


Michelle L'Heureux will run her first marathon on Monday. Two years ago while watching the Boston Marathon, she was among the hundreds injured in the bombing. Recently, she met her friend Walter Dunbar for a training run at Marathon Sports on Boylston Street, near the finish line where the first bomb went off. He was the EMT who treated her that day.

MICHELLE L'HEUREUX: I was in front of that lamppost right out there. And then subsequently, I was laying by the counter over there. I somehow got in here, collapsed by the counter, had three people help me until they took me to the medical tent. And once I was in the medical tent, I had multiple people working on me, including Walter. I think Walter tagged my arm, too, for the hospital.

WALTER DUNBAR: Yeah, I bandaged you up, triage tag, kept talking to you, kept coming back to you.

L'HEUREUX: He bandaged me and he kept asking me my name.

DUNBAR: We had a really long conversation that you don't remember anything about.

L'HEUREUX: No, I don't.

DUNBAR: But I remember how strong you were then. And to see you run the marathon now, I'm in awe.

L'HEUREUX: I remember Walter said that I was one of the calmest people in the tent. And I'm like I don't remember, but that's good to know that I was calm. And I guess he was keeping me awake and talking to me, which is good. And yeah, we've become friends.

DUNBAR: We're both running Boston this year, so it's just amazing. Last year was my first year. It's only grown in proportion. It doesn't get less because it's two years later. It's actually - it just keeps growing and getting better.

L'HEUREUX: I've never run. I was always on the sidelines having a cocktail and hanging out with my friends. And I would always joke it's something I would never ever do. And last year, we were offered bibs. And I was still going through surgery, so I couldn't have. And I thought, well, it's not for me anyway.

And then at the end of 2014, we got an email saying that we were going to be offered bibs again. And I was worried about my leg. And the more I started running, the more I was like wow, maybe I can do this. Like, now I'm up to five miles, and now I'm up to six miles.

And for me, I kind of wanted to do something I never would've done before being injured. And I - this is something I definitely never would've done. So I think symbolically for me it's important. I went through over a half dozen surgeries. And when I think about that and then look down at my legs running, it's powerful. And it's - I'm not the best runner, I'm not the strongest runner, but I just want to cross that finish line. Because also I'm an American, and I'll be damned if I'm going to be knocked down and not get back up.

DUNBAR: (Laughter) You need like a standing ovation for that.

L'HEUREUX: I mean, I'm not the only one. You know, you're doing it. Our group is doing it. It just feels powerful. I just - I know that when I come down Boylston Street, I may pass the spot where I was hurt, but all my loved ones are going to be standing there. And so that'll get me down the street. I know I'll be smiling and crying all at the same time. And then I'll probably want a beer after. (Laughter).

DUNBAR: Cheers to that. She sent me a picture of her on the treadmill and told me that she was training to run. And I had tears of joy to see people that at the time, you know, we didn't know if they were going to survive. To meet up with them looking clean, beautiful and healthy, watch them recover, watch them start to be able to walk and now do the Boston Marathon, the same event that could've claimed her life - instead of claiming it, she's going to conquer it. It's just amazing.

RATH: That was Michelle L'Heureux and Walter Dunbar, who are both running in the Boston Marathon tomorrow. Their conversation was produced by Craig LeMoult at WGBH Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.