Runners Draw Strength from Each Other as They Honor Boston Bombings Victims

Runners in Washington, D.C,. gathered last week to support victims of the April 15 Boston bombings. Organizer Adam Siple and at least 150 others participated.

The April 15 attacks at the Boston Marathon shocked all Americans, but runners couldn’t sit still for long. By the next morning, runners across the nation woke up with the same idea: get out and run for Boston.

Washington, D.C., resident Adam Siple grew up in the Boston area and spent the days after the marathon trying to find out if the runners and spectators he knew there were safe. Thinking of his hometown, he posted a Facebook photo of his running shoes with blue and yellow flowers — the colors of the Boston Marathon. The post resonated with his D.C. running community, so Siple thought he’d get a group together for a run on the National Mall a week after the bombings.

The Facebook event quickly went viral, attracting more than 350 attendees and eliciting donations and volunteers. A hotel by the Mall offered to host a post-run happy hour and donate a portion of the proceeds to the One Fund for Boston.

Siple himself aspires to run the Boston Marathon. “You see people striving for excellence. You want to be a part of it, and you draw inspiration from it.”

D.C. participants used the run to clear their heads and work through their emotions with the support of the group. Running helps, Siple said, because “it’s a solitary sport… but you draw strength from other runners.”

Adrienne Levy of Charleston, S.C., ran her first marathon in 2011 and cried at her desk when she heard news of the attack.

“I’ll never forget how I crossed that finish line, the wave of emotion. It hits so close to home.”

The morning after the bombings, she emailed a few of her running friends to see if they would meet up the following Sunday morning for a group run around a neighborhood lake.

The Charleston run grew way beyond Levy’s handful of regular running friends with the help of her Twitter following and a Facebook page run by a local running organization.

Organizers encouraged people to spread the word about the event and directed them to the One Fund for donations. On the day of the race, more than 500 people showed up, wearing stars and stripes, Boston Red Sox jerseys and T-shirts listing the names of the Boston Marathon victims.

Levy was amazed by the turnout. “It took off. Everyone wanted to run, to show Boston that we support them.”

It wasn’t just marathoners who got into the spirit. Courtney Snelgrove’s 8-year-old son came to Colonial Lake with her and ran the 5k — his first — in honor of Richard Martin, the 8-year-old victim in Boston.

In Chicago, Kate Napleton, organizer of Chicago Runs for Boston wanted to show her solidarity with Boston as well. “The spirit [of both cities] is so similar; they’re both tough towns with a little bit of pluck to them.” She invited her friends to meet up for a memorial run and set up a website to raise money for the Red Cross. Her original target was $1,500, but she had to keep raising the goal as donors surpassed it again and again. They have raised more than $5,900 — and counting. Eager participants gave her cash donations on the day of the race; $500 went to the One Fund.

The group met at the Lakefront Trail and ran together through the winding park, Lake Michigan on one side and the city of Chicago on the other.

“All over America, people feel terrible about what had happened… [Running] connects people,” Napleton said. The run helped her get beyond the sadness. “At some point you can start feeling like you can let go of things, and work through things a little better with the rhythm of feet. I try to clear my mind.”

As the D.C. runners made their way around the National Mall, they were cheered on and joined by tourists, other runners and bikers. When the police stopped Adam Siple, he thought they might halt the runners since he hadn’t gotten official permission for the event. Instead, they asked how they could help.

Juliet Glauber, one of the D.C. volunteers, recalled running the Marine Corps Marathon alongside amputees who had to stop to clean off their prostheses throughout the race. Running alongside these survivors, she thought, “If they could keep running, I could keep running.”

She has faith that those injured at the Boston Marathon this year will keep running, too.

Video shot by Elise Garofalo, Rebecca Jacobson and Ellen Rolfes. Edited by Ellen Rolfes and Justin Sciuletti.

Ellen Rolfes contributed to this story.