In the 26 days leading up to the Boston Marathon on April 21, ESPNBoston.com will share inspiring stories, detail important logistics and go inside the planning for what promises to be an event like no other in the wake of last year's bombings. There are four days until the race.

She dodged tornadoes in Kansas and ran with a norovirus in West Virginia, but something told Gina Chupka to stop when she was nearing the finish line at a marathon in Holyoke, Mass., last spring. It would've been her 50th marathon in 50 states, a dizzying pursuit the chemist started three years ago, a journey of 100,000 miles by air and a few thousand more by foot.

[+] EnlargeGina Chupka
Courtesy of Gina ChupkaGina Chupka wasn't able to complete the 2013 Boston Marathon because of the bombings near the finish line.
The 2013 Boston Marathon was supposed to be Chupka's last state, but she was stopped at the final mile when the bombs went off. Finishing in Boston seemed fitting. Chupka, who lives in Golden, Colo., was born and raised in Westfield, Mass., and is a childhood fan of Boston sports. When she got back to her hotel room the day of the bombings, she immediately booked a hotel for the 2014 Boston Marathon, unsure whether she'd be invited back.

So three weeks later, she entered Holyoke, which boasts itself as the United States' 10th-oldest marathon. This would be No. 50 for Chupka. But when she got to Mile 16 or so, she decided that she had to wait for Boston. The news stunned her mom and cousins, who were waiting near the finish line and imploring her to cross. Chupka's mom, Kathy, had been through a lot already. She was waiting for her daughter at the finish line in Boston last year, and was very close to the second bomb. She was OK, but was eager to see her daughter finish her pursuit. Gina said, "Please don't be mad at me," as she saw her relatives near the finish line at Holyoke.

"I don't know ... It's hard to explain, but I just knew I couldn't cross the finish line," she said. "My mom didn't speak to me for probably three or four days. She didn't understand."

In Boston, Chupka will be running for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which provides financial support for cancer patients and their families. Joe and Jen Andruzzi will most likely be waiting for Chupka at the finish in Boston; her parents will not. They decided to take a cruise during this year's marathon.

That's OK with Chupka, who has run everywhere from Abilene, Kansas, to Omaha, Neb., to Maui. She plans to make a quilt out of all of her T-shirts from each state. And maybe she'll write a book.

The website 50statesmarathonclub.com says it has 3,420 members in the United States and 12 other countries. Chupka ran 24 of her marathons in one year, in 2012. But Boston has a very special place in her heart.

"The closer I get [to Boston], the more emotional I get," she said. "I was telling someone, 'I wonder if I'm going to be able to breathe or if my throat is going to close with emotion.'"

6 Days: Boston pays tribute on anniversary

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
5:02
PM ET
In the 26 days leading up to the Boston Marathon on April 21, ESPNBoston.com will share inspiring stories, detail important logistics and go inside the planning for what promises to be an event like no other in the wake of last year's bombings. There are six days until the race.

BOSTON -- An emotional year of recovery from the Boston Marathon bombings continued Tuesday with a stirring tribute to the victims, survivors and all those who helped the city overcome the tragic events of April 15, 2013.

[+] EnlargeBoston Marathon ceremony
AP Photo/Charles KrupaSurvivors, public officials and first responders pause as the flag is raised at the Boston Marathon finish line to cap Tuesday's anniversary tribute.
With the families of the three fatalities of the bombings and the slain MIT police officer sitting in the front row of the event hall at Hynes Convention Center, there were speeches from survivors, dignitaries and elected officials, as well as musical interludes led by the Boston Pops Esplanade and the Boston Children's Chorus.

Later, a ceremony in Copley Square included a moment of silence, a flag raising at the marathon's finish line and the toll of church bells at 2:50 p.m., the moment the first bomb went off one year ago.

The theme was set by the first speaker, the Rev. Liz Walker of Roxbury Presbyterian Church, who began by uttering the words, "There is a rising."

The reference, of course, was to the community's remarkable rise from the ashes as well as each survivor's personal journey from pain and sadness to triumph and resolve.

"There is no way to walk to Boylston Street without being reminded of the evil spilling of precious blood, the hateful strike on a world treasure," Walker said. "But we are also reminded of the amazing capacity of the human spirit to rise in heroism, compassion and sacrifice.

"An ascension of the human spirit, left to its own devices, its divine design, it will rise, despite anything, despite everything."

Walker was the first to reference the four fatalities by name. She touched on the remarkable qualities of Lingzi Lu, Krystle Campbell, Sean Collier and 8-year-old Martin Richard, qualities their loved ones retain in their memories.

Boston Athletic Association executive director Tom Grilk then took the stage to acknowledge first responders, medical professionals, marathon volunteers and elected officials. Grilk had each group stand so that the individuals could be seen and showered with applause in the spirit of the day.

The next rousing ovation came for former mayor Thomas Menino, who memorably left the hospital where he was recovering from surgery on a broken leg to be a part of the immediate recovery a year ago. Menino said that April 15, 2013, will forever be a difficult day but that the community he adores will always be strong.

"Although the memories still bring tears to our eyes, our heart aches for those who were lost, it still is a comfort to be here with family and friends who got us through that tragic day," Menino said.

Menino called the area around the finish line a "broken place" but one that brought out the greatest qualities in Bostonians.

"That strength thrives ... because of the compassion that resides in this city, the generosity that resides in our people," he said. "It's the heartbeat of Boston. It's a mighty force."

Menino later took a moment to poke fun at his manner of speaking, which has caused some to strain to hear him over the years. He wondered if that, along with the hearing loss sustained by some of those near the blasts, would make his words hard to comprehend.

The former mayor urged the throng to lean in a bit closer, as if leading story time at the local library, and asked them to listen in.

"I want you to hear this solemn promise," he began. "When the lights are dim, know that our support and love for you will never waver. Whatever you have to do to recover and carry on, know that the people of Boston and I are right there by your side."

(Read the full story.)

Running Boston (and hills) to remember

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
12:07
PM ET
video
Hills, hills and more hills. They can be a runner’s nightmare, and I can’t leave my driveway without going up or down one. I don’t really have a choice in the matter, but for runners training for the Boston Marathon, they are a necessary evil anyway. There’s a reason a stretch of the race is called Heartbreak Hill.

My training for Boston this year was no different. Braving the hills during New England winter is always a challenge -- frozen water bottles and energy gel turned to a thick sludge are the norm -- but I’d rather use my treadmill as a coat rack than a training tool. Still, on some days I wondered if I should run in boots or snowshoes instead of sneakers.

The end result is that I feel slightly unprepared and under-trained for this year’s race, but I'm more motivated to run Boston than I've ever been before.

My initial feeling about whether to run Boston this year for the fifth time was this: If I qualified for the race, I'd better run it. After all, the field is comprised of the fastest and most dedicated marathoners, who have either qualified based on times or are members of a charity organization and have raised lots of money. To run Boston is an honor. It’s not just a typical marathon, especially this year.

I find myself reminiscing about my previous experiences in Boston. My first Boston was in 2007, during a nor'easter. My mom thought I was crazy to run (and she might have been right), but so were the other 20,000-plus runners and countless supporters who braved the elements that day.

I posted my best time in 2010, my 3:10:56 besting my dad’s fastest time from the 1970s. The heat was a major factor in the 2012 race, but I still posted one of my better times while all around me runners were dropping like flies.

Then 2013 happened. It started out like any other Boston Marathon, with perfect weather, enthusiastic fans and amazing support from volunteers. One of the highlights for me was running the majority of the race next to a man wearing a pink tutu and crown and carrying a magic wand.

(Read full post)

ESPN: Today's anniversary coverage

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
10:00
AM ET
Stay tuned to ESPN and WatchESPN.com throughout the day for coverage of the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. Here’s our schedule:

Marathon tribute event (11:45 a.m.-3 p.m. ET): Live broadcast of the one-year anniversary tribute at the Hynes Convention Center and the marathon finish line on Boylston Street.

• "Outside The Lines Special - Boston: A Day To Remember" (3-4 p.m. ET): Bob Ley and Michelle Steele will broadcast OTL live from the site of the marathon tribute.

• "E:60 Presents Dream On: Stories from Boston's Strongest" (7-8 p.m. ET): ESPN’s award-winning news magazine show, "E:60," will make its spring 2014 premiere with a special hour dedicated to the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. The show, hosted by Bob Woodruff of ABC News, will present five stories of survivors, narrated by celebrity voices of Boston, including New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Snapshot: The finish line, a year later

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
9:48
PM ET
Boston MarathonAndrew Burton/Getty Images
Police patrolled the Boston Marathon finish line Monday, a week before the 118th running of the race and a day before the anniversary of last year's bombings.