DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – For Ron McCracken of Dallas, running is a part of his everyday routine—one he has maintained for more than a decade. He seems to be not entirely kidding when he calls it, “free therapy.” And the avid runner needs it now, more than ever.

McCracken was less than a mile from the finish line, when bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon on Monday—killing three and wounding more than a hundred. The avid runner—he’s done the Boston Marathon 13 times– says the grief is intensely personal.

“It’s very much like a death in the family,” says McCracken. “It has just hit me so hard, I’m hardly sleeping at all.”

Tim Peebles, Longview, watched his son, JT, finish his first Boston Marathon from a now infamous spot—just steps from where the first bomb eventually exploded.

“[I] almost went to my knees because I was probably standing right by the bomb for I don’t know how long,” says Peebles. “And I thought, any second they could have pushed the button and it could have been me with my legs taken off.”

His son readily admits—he’s still struggling. “I’m just beginning to soak in what happened,” says the younger Peebles. “Totally in shock!”

Experts say ‘shock’ after such an event is normal—even healthy.

“It’s your mind’s way of putting itself on hold while it begins to process the events,” says Plano Psychologist Sylvia Gearing. Dr. Gearing cautions returning runners to prepare for possible mood swings, anxiety, and ‘out-of-sort’ emotions for a while. Her best advice for friends and family? “Just be supportive, listen to them, get them to communicate. The more they talk about it, the better, because they’re releasing the emotion within a safe environment.”

According to Dr. Gearing, it’s also a good idea to return to normal, positive, routines as soon as possible. Peebles says he plans to go for a swim and has found comfort in prayer, and spending time with his wife and family. For McCracken, he’s back on the track… for many reasons. He’s already looking forward to his 14th Boston Marathon.

“That’s what I keep in my mind,” says McCracken. “They’re not going to stop us.”

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