Friends met Carmen Llana, BSN, RN, as she crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon, one of the world’s most prestigious races. The date was April 15, 2013, and she had just completed her sixth marathon.

Carmen at Boston Marathon

Carmen, wrapped in a thermal blanket for warmth, crossed the finish line of her first Boston Marathon in 2013, shortly before the bombing.

But Carmen, who works in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit, would remember this day for another reason. Chilly because of the cooler temperatures, she returned to her hotel to get warm instead of staying to watch the rest of the race, a decision that possibly saved her life. Just minutes later, two bombs exploded at the finish line.

Back in her hotel room, Carmen had no idea of the havoc unfolding nearby. “I was in the shower, and when I got out, I heard sirens and helicopters. I looked at my phone and noticed 37 missed calls,” Carmen said. She saw police jumping out of vehicles with assault rifles. A television broadcast confirmed the horrific terrorist attack.

Carmen’s first experience in Boston didn’t deter her from returning to the race on the one-year anniversary of the bombings. In fact, she referred to it as her favorite race. “The race had an entirely different feel,” Carmen recalled. “Runners who were injured in 2013 participated, and the crowd was huge. It was very emotional.”

Carmen has been a runner for more than 15 years. “I started running in college to stay in shape. And as I got older, I thought it would be fun to be timed, so I started racing,” explained Carmen, who turns 40 in March.

She encourages everyone to find some type of exercise to maintain their health. “I like running because I only need a good pair of shoes and some sunscreen,” she laughed.

Carmen’s love of running and her competitive spirit have motivated her to complete a combined total of over 70 full (26.2 miles) and half (13.1 miles) marathons. She’s participated in races close to home and as far away as California, Texas, Arkansas and Nevada. Her ultimate dream is to run a marathon in Berlin, Germany.