It was going to be an emotional day for me, no matter what. The goal I had spent the past four years working toward finally came to fruition. I was running the Boston Marathon.

I have never felt so excited and lucky at the starting line of a race as I did Monday. But about five miles in, I could tell it wasn’t going to be my day. Painful muscle cramps forced me stop at miles 11 and 25, but each time, I massaged them out and kept going. Because it was the Boston Marathon, and no matter how long it took me, I was going to finish. I crossed the finish line in 3 hours 43 minutes: About 15 minutes slower than I had planned, but I was thrilled.

I am generally the type of runner who, during marathons, is completely in her own world. I appreciate the crowds, but they don’t do much to motivate me. But the crowds at this race pulled me through.

I have never experienced adrenaline like that before. The fans carried me: the Wellesley women who urged me on after my first cramp (and a special thanks to the one who kissed me when I went in for a high-five), the families and business owners in Hopkinton and Natick, all the unofficial water stops manned by 10-year-olds and, of course, my friends and family spread out along the course. There were times I wanted to walk, to quit or to cry (and, by times, I mean pretty much the entire race after Mile 14 or so), but they kept me going.

Saying that a marathon is the ultimate event of community spirit is an understatement. The support and admiration that pour out from the spectators and the camaraderie among the runners are indescribable. To me, that makes what happened Monday even more terrible: It happened at a moment when people had come together to support one another, it stopped thousands of runners from realizing their dreams of crossing that finish line, and most of all, it hurt the very people who helped keep me moving when I was hurting. If not for their shouts of encouragement, I might have crossed the finish line closer to when the bombs went off.

Tragedies like this are eeriest when you feel like you just barely escaped — that many small, and difficult, decisions kept you out of harm’s way. I’d call it fate, except I’m not sure if I believe in fate. So instead, I’ll call it fans. Thank you to everyone in Boston for coming out, for cheering and, most of all, for courageously running to the scene to help when disaster struck. And thank you for keeping me moving and safely across the finish line. My heart is with you, Boston. Now and always.

Miriam Becker-Cohen, Washington

I returned home to Washington on Tuesday after running the Boston Marathon. I was approaching Mile 26 as the explosions rocked the finish line.

This was a tragic and senseless end to an otherwise exuberant day. From the start, neighbors joined together to support the runners — students from local colleges offered a chorus of cheers, veterans’ groups waved big American flags and rows of little kids held out their hands for high-fives. What was meant to be a moment of accomplishment quickly became one of terror, as runners — many of us far from home — frantically tried to make contact with loved ones. This is when the spirit of this great city soared.

As I began to make my way through the chaotic streets following the explosions, wearing only shorts and a T-shirt on a cold afternoon, a young man took off his Red Sox jacket and handed it to me, saying, “You need this more than I do.” My memory of the 117th Boston Marathon is not of death and destruction but rather of the immense power of the human spirit and the generosity of the human heart.

David Park, Washington