The Boston Marathon bombing survivor who wrote an open letter to accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hours after testifying at his federal death penalty trial ran in her first race since the blasts.
Rebekah Gregory, who had her left leg amputated below the knee in November after 17 surgeries failed to save it, participated in the UNESCO Cities Marathon in northern Italy on Sunday.
“Yesterday I ran in my first race since the bombing,” Gregory wrote in an Instagram post. “And even though I couldn't get through the whole thing, the scenery of Italian countryside and the feeling of crossing the finish line....was absolutely incredible.
“Next time I get blown up the terrorists should do a better job,” she added. “They may have taken my leg but they have given me an insane amount of determination in its place.”
Gregory, who was invited to the race by nonprofit humanitarian organization @uxilia, told La Gazzetta dello Sport that she knew she would not run the entire 26.2 miles on her new prosthetic leg.
“I gave myself the target of at least cross the finish line, because it means so much for me,” the 27-year-old Texan said. “It is above all a stage of normality, the first towards a dream, not for revenge or to challenge fate, rather ... running is my way to show people who have tried to destroy me and that hurt me have only made me stronger. My life is returning.”
Before the race, Gregory met with Iram Saeed, a Pakistani woman whose face was disfigured in an acid attack by a man she refused to marry.
“We are given reminders every day that it is time to take action. Today, mine was a beautiful woman from Pakistan. Face of a victim....but heart of a survivor,” Gregory wrote on Facebook. “This woman is my new hero.”
In her letter to Tsarnaev, Gregory wrote that the chance to testify against him alleviated her fears that have lingered since the 2013 attack.
“Up until now, I have been truly scared of you and because of this, fearful of everything else people might be capable of,” Gregory wrote. “But today, all that changed. Because this afternoon, I got to walk into a courtroom and take my place at the witness stand, just a few feet away from where you were sitting. (I was WALKING. Did you get that?) And today I explained all the horrific details, of how you changed my life, to the people that literally hold YOURS in their hands. That's a little scary right?
“So yes,” Gregory continued. “You did take a part of me. Congratulations you now have a leg up...literally. But in so many ways, you saved my life. Because now, I am so much more appreciative of every new day I am given. And now, I get to hug my son even tighter than before, blessed that he is THRIVING, despite everything that has happened.
“So now...while you are sitting in solitary confinement, (awaiting the verdict on your life), I will be actually ENJOYING everything this beautiful world has to offer. And guess what else? I will do so without fear....of YOU. Because now to me you’re a nobody, and it is official that you have lost. So man that really sucks for you bro. I truly hope it was worth it.”