Fifteen days later, under a similarly bright sun and with a gentle breeze at their backs, they finally crossed the finish line.
Juli Windsor and John Young, the first dwarfs to run the Boston Marathon, had spent months training and envisioning that moment of catharsis, of completing a run that would require them to take more than twice the steps of other runners and overcome a back-stabbing, leg-numbing pain that afflicts little people who run long distances.
Like thousands of others, they had their paths blocked when the bombs detonated. They had reached mile 25.7 and could hear the sirens in the distance.
“I wanted to throw up,” said Windsor, 27, a physician’s assistant from the South End, after hearing from spectators with phones what had happened a half mile away.
They both had family at the finish line and feared for their safety. “My immediate thought was whether they were OK,” said Young, 47, a high school math teacher from Salem.
Young’s wife and son witnessed the aftermath and fled. Windsor’s mother was trampled in the mayhem on Boylston Street, suffering a fractured shoulder and black eye.
“I was completely fearful of the unknown,” Windsor said.
The two, running strong to the end, made a slow march with thousands of other runners down Commonwealth Avenue to Boston Common, both growing cold and thirsty as they tried to reach their families.
They both have struggled to understand why anyone would target such a celebration of endurance and spirit. They both were waiting for the right moment to seek some sense of closure, some feeling that they completed what they spent so long trying to accomplish.
On Tuesday, with crowds again filling the Back Bay and the memorials to the killed and maimed still growing, Windsor and Young began where they were stopped, at Charlesgate and Commonwealth Avenue.
Young wore his shirt and bib from the race; Windsor wore a shirt that read, “Run Your Heart Out Boston.”
“It’s a surreal feeling,” Windsor said before starting. “It brings back the panic, the concern of the unknown, of not knowing what’s going on. There’s also an exhilaration . . . a hope of the feeling of some completeness.”
Young felt the gravity of the moment that he had looked forward to but was stolen from him and so many others at the last minute. “It stems back to what my mother always told me, ‘You finish what you start.’ ”
He added: “Crossing the finish line was really big for me, like the birth of my son and getting married.”
The two took it slow, sticking to the sidewalk on Commonwealth Avenue. They rounded Hereford Street with a lot more energy than they would have had 15 days before.
The sun shone and their smiles broadened as they came to the yellow and blue line beside Boston Public Library.
When they crossed, they both were misty-eyed. Windsor bowed her head and her husband, Blake, put a medal around her neck.
Young’s son, Owen, placed the medal around his neck.
There were hugs and high fives, without any triumph.
“I feel a kind of silence, like there aren’t words to explain,” Windsor said.
Young said he hoped the moment would replace the terror his son witnessed on Marathon day. “I’m hoping we’ll get to do this for real next year,” Young said.
David Abel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.