Shannon Teslow, of Fort Collins, Colo., is a 48-year-old food writer and runner who has rheumatoid arthritis (RA). She finished the 2013 Boston Marathon just ahead of the explosions that killed three and wounded almost 200. She shared her experiences with Arthritis Today.

Running the Boston Marathon was a bucket list item for me. I won’t let RA define me and I couldn't think of a better way to prove that than finishing the greatest marathon in the world.

For many years, running was a huge part of my life. I ran all through high school and college. I went to UCLA on a cross-country and track scholarship. My first marathon was in college at age 19. I was trying to qualify for the first Olympic women’s marathon trials. The qualifying time was 2:51 and I ran 2:53, just missing it.

I continued running after college, but after my RA diagnosis I had to stop. A few years later, after having my two children, I thought I had found a medication that would allow me to run again, but when I tried it was still too painful. Eventually I began taking etanercept (Enbrel) and was able to take up running again because I felt so much better.

I also began volunteering with the Arthritis Foundation. I started with the relaunch of the Jingle Bell Run in Fort Collins. Later I joined the national RA Alliance and Leadership Group. Because of my involvement with the AF, when I got to Boston, I knew I wanted to wear my Faces of Arthritis shirt during the race. Thousands of people saw it along the route. I'm sure many of them either have arthritis or know someone who does. I hope I touched someone. I heard so many "go arthritis" cheers from the crowd along the route. It really kept me moving, even when my quads began to tighten up.

I’ll never forget the throngs of fans lining every inch of those amazing 26 miles; the outstretched hands along the way – cheering strangers looking for a high-five and kids holding out oranges and cookies and Kleenex; the beautiful dogwood-lined streets; the agony of Heartbreak Hill; and finally that six-mile stretch into Boston where the deafening sound of thousands cheering you on is the only thing that keeps you going. A finish line never held such emotion.  

I broke down in tears after the race – before the bombings – from the pure emotion of finishing and the realization of my accomplishment.