PHOENIX -- For runners, a spot in the Boston Marathon is an honor taken very seriously. That was the case for Colleen O'Connell.
"It was very special for me to qualify and for me to be here this weekend," she said from her hotel room in Boston Monday night.
A dedicated runner, O'Connell called it a picture perfect day in Boston. But a few minutes after she crossed the finsh line Monday at 4:07 and change, the thrill of a great day for racing was gone.
"I heard the first explosion and it was very loud and it sounded to me like thunder and I was, like, there's no way that's thunder and the guy next to me said, 'That was a bomb," O'Connell said. "We didn't even turn around. Then we both turned around when we heard the second explosion and he looks at me and goes, 'For sure. That's a bomb.'"
O'Connell said a sort of calm confusion followed, so she and those around her kept moving toward the exit. Many first responders were on their way in. Eventually, she made it back to her hotel.
"They had already brought out televisions, several televisions at all corners of the main lobby and people were just standing around them watching," she said. "It reminded me kind of of 9/11 when people were just glued to the television trying to figure out what's going on."
Even having lived it, O'Connell said it still feels surreal.
"I've run 11 marathons," she said. "It's like, you just trust that everything's OK at a marathon. Why would you think anything otherwise?"
O'Connell said she'll return home to Phoenix Tuesday night.