Redemption comes in many forms.
For Matt McFall and Rae Ann Darling Reed, it is the Boston Marathon.
The 19-year-old McFall is the youngest entry from the Deep South states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama in this year's Boston Marathon, which is slated for April 21st, a year and six days after the 2013 race that ended with a terrorist bombing that killed three people and injured 264 others.
This is the fifth Boston Marathon for the 40-year-old Darling Reed, the cross country coach at Manatee High. But it might as well be her first because it has never meant so much to her.
"I live in Florida, but at heart I am a New Englander and when something happens where I came from it affects me emotionally," Darling Reed said. "I am running Boston this year because I want to show that terrorists can't take away something so important to us."
The bombing was a double whammy for Darling Reed, who saw her hometown of Monson, Mass., nearly wiped out by tornadoes in 2011.
About 3,500 police will be stationed along the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon course after last year's attack. More than 36,000 participants are registered to run.
McFall looks at the 2014 Boston Marathon as a personal rebirth.
Last spring, he was thinking about his upcoming graduation at Braden River and going to the state track meet,
where he hoped to make a big splash in the mile and two-mile runs. He was your typical senior looking to enjoy his final months of high school.
During last year's Boston Marathon, McFall was lying in bed recovering from multiple surgeries to his face. He was fooling around on a trampoline and collided with a friend whose head smashed into his jaw. McFall suffered multiple fractures.
McFall didn't feel any pain initially because he incurred nerve damage. When he got home, his parents, both of whom work at Blake Medical Center, panicked.
"He walked into the house, and his face looked as if it was gone," said his mother, Pamela. "But it was more frightening that he didn't feel any pain, and we immediately took him to the hospital. There were surgeries, and he has made a remarkable recovery. He was depressed for about six to eight weeks because the doctor told him no running. He looks slightly different, but doesn't want to go through anymore procedures."
The Boston Marathon will mark one day and one week from his accident. It took away from his dilemma.
"It made me think I didn't have it so bad when I saw what happened," McFall said. "The accident was one of the weakest points of my life and now I am in the strongest part of my life. Running in Boston means everything to me."
McFall's first surgery lasted more than three hours. When it was over, his right eye was completely shut and he could only open his left eye with his finger for about two weeks.
McFall said he didn't recognize himself when the bandages came off.
"My cheek was flatter on the right side of my face, but they since fixed a lot of things and I am OK with how I look now," he said. "It was life changing at first, but when you look at me now you can't tell anything happened. I think I look OK."
McFall said he still feels some numbness in his face at times, but he has not allowed anything to hinder his running. He broke the mile and two-mile records at Braden River before the injury and is getting back to his old self.
He ran his second marathon last January at Disney and turned in a personal-best time of 2 hours and 45 minutes.
At 6-foot, 127 pounds McFall says his spindly frame is an advantage because his body doesn't need as much oxygen.
"I wanted to run Boston because it is the world's oldest marathon (modern era) and America's most famous. It's a lifetime achievement and to do it a year after my injury makes it special," McFall said. "There are about 20 19-year-olds running, and I want to be the fastest of that group."
Darling Reed ran the Boston Marathon in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2011. Her best time was 3:25 in '98, and she ran a 3:31:05 in her last Boston Marathon. She has completed 21 marathons.
"I started running marathons right after graduating from college because I always dreamed of running Boston," she said. "Growing up in Massachusetts, we always had Patriot's Day (Boston Marathon Monday) off from school so I would watch the marathon on television. It is definitely the most exciting and meaningful marathon I have done."
Darling Reed knows the course well and says the first half of the race can trick inexperienced runners because it's mostly downhill and you want to run faster than you should.
"You hit uphill starting around the 16- and 18-mile marks and then you have heartbreak hill, which is tough and some hit the (proverbial) wall," Darling Reed said. "This is going to be one of biggest fields for the Boston Marathon. As for Matt, he is an amazing person. He is going to do well."
Darling Reed showed her hometown loyalty last June when she ran the Tornado Alley 57 Miler, which covered the path of the tornadoes that caused havoc in her hometown and surrounding areas.
"It took about 10 hours to finish, but it raised money to help people who were affected by the tornadoes. I also did a personal fundraiser for Monson and may run the 57 Miler next year. You don't forget where you grew up. Monson is about an hour from Boston," she said.