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Compelled to go back

Eugene “JJ” Schmidt of St. Charles recalled that he still has a mix of feelings about last year’s Boston Marathon.

“My mantra continues to be the switch from a day of elated feelings to one of numbness, one where there was mental confusion on how to process the events that were taking place,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt, who works at Fermilab, heads an informal runners group called JJ and Pals that had 10 people in the race in 2013 (including Tammy Hartje), most of whom will be back again to run Monday. He had already completed the course and was waiting for his friends two blocks away from the finish line when the bombs exploded.

“I remember being in an area where families and friends were waiting for runners and the panic those people were feeling because they could not get in touch with people who were still on course at time of bombs,” he said. “I spent a great deal of time reassuring people that I had learned from cell phone calls that most of injured were spectators.”

In months since, Schmidt said not much has changed much for him, “beyond reinforcing what one of my running friends always says — enjoy and grab the day because you do not know what tomorrow will bring.”

“I did not feel the bombs were an attack of runners, per se, or even on running spectators,” Schmidt said. “It was just an act of violence against a random gathering of people.”

Monday’s race will be his 22nd marathon overall since his first in 2002 and his fourth time running Boston. His wife, Chris, is accompanying him for the first time.

“I can only say that when sign-up time came, I felt compelled to go back,” he said. “I have no real understanding — it seemed like the right thing to do. I might note that I likely would not have gone back this year if the bombings had not taken place.”

Schmidt said that a large part of what defines him is associated with being a long distance runner.

“The Boston Marathon is more than any other race identified as the long distance event in this country,” Schmidt said. “And It does seem like a way to honor those killed and injured who were there to validate my sport and identity.”

If all is normal this year, Schmidt said, “After a marathon, you are naturally decompressed, because you are spent physically. If I am with any of my running buddies Monday night or Tuesday, we will likely first dissect our performances and then start planning our next race.”

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