In the hours and days after two homemade bombs killed three and injured more than 130 others, local running stores became places for runners to congregate and process the horrific acts that shattered the joy of the 117th Boston Marathon.
Owners and managers listened to customers and began sharing with each other the desire to do something to show support, raise money and begin the healing process for runners — and those who support them — across the country.
“These terrorists didn’t just attack those people, they attacked every marathoner in the country, in the world,” said Glen Gerner, owner of Wasatch Running Center in Sandy. “These stores have such a relationship, we all just wanted to reach out to the communities.” Within two days, the Independent Running Retailers Association suggested stores offer communities the opportunity to run for Boston in fundraising fun runs all held at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 22 — exactly one week after the deadly attacks. There are runs schedule at Wasatch Running Center (Sandy), Salt Lake Running Company (Salt Lake City) and a Heber Creeper Train Ride/Run (Heber City, hebervalleyrr.org)all scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday.
The connections were numerous and personal for runners, including the fact that one famous independent running store became a life-saving operation in the minutes after the bombs exploded among spectators.
“Marathon Sports is right at the finish line,” said Gerner. “It’s right next to where one of the bombs went off, and people were brought into the store and they were wrapping them in new merchandise to try and stop the bleeding. The idea started to spread almost immediately.”
The IRRA was the impetus, but it’s the local running stores that have organized the hundreds of runs and that will cover the costs of printing T-shirts for those who participate.
Just getting shirts printed by Monday will be a challenge.
“The goal (of forming IRRA) was to keep the running community local,” said Guy Perry, owner of Salt Lake Running Company. “Some things a running store can do that a big corporate store cannot. Like this, we can move fast.”
Salt Lake Running and Wasatch Running Center are among the stores hosting runs, as well as accepting donations and selling T-shirts to raise money for the One Fund Boston (onefundboston.org). Perry said he believed Striders in Layton planned a run as well, although the store’s website asked customers to come in for ways to support the One Fund Boston. (Utahrunning.com has a list of local running stores, along with phone numbers to inquire about possible fundraising fun runs on Monday.)
Mark Nelson, founder and race director of various events including The Best Dam Half and Wasatch Back Marathon, organized the train ride and run in Heber City.
“I had a strong feeling that runners wanted to show their support for Boston, the victims and express their resilience as runners and people,” Nelson said. “I’m fortunate to have access to a tourist railroad in a beautiful place, so why not give a bunch of runners a chance to pack in the train for 15 minutes or so (and ride) out to Soldier Hollow, and then run back together? Call it an excuse for a bunch of people who love running and life to get together.”
Nelson invited several of those who ran Boston to run the race as a way to show support and offer an opportunity to heal. There is no cost to any of the races, but those interested in the train ride should call the Heber Valley Railroad at 435-654-5601 to reserve a ticket. Wasatch Running isn’t requiring registration but Salt Lake Running is asking participants to register, especially if they want a T-shirt.
The response has been a little overwhelming.
Perry’s store set a cap at 1,000 runners and hit that ceiling before the store opened Friday morning. He hopes to find a way to involve those who still want to show support or participate, including the possibility of holding a second run at their Draper store.
“I’m not surprised that the running family is going to react to something like this, something that threatens their (sport),” Perry said. “That’s the beauty of the sport that we’re involved with. It goes to the core; it’s not a skin deep sport.”
He said he expected runners to support the cause, adding that non-runners have been as supportive as “hard-core runners.”
“The feedback I’ve gotten is that people know runners and they are amazed at what runners can do and how could anybody take a cheap shot at those people,” he said. “We expect lots of T-shirts will be sold to people who aren’t runners.”
In fact, in an effort to allow everyone to support the Boston victims, Salt Lake Running Company will attempt to sell the T-shirts through the week.
“I expect to sell a lot of shirts to people who aren’t running,” he said.
It should be noted that all of the independent running stores are covering the costs of the T-shirts being sold as fundraisers so that every penny paid or donated by participants goes to the Boston fund. Perry said it could get expensive, but that it’s part of what running store owners see as supporting the communities that support them.
Wasatch Running officials ordered 160 shirts, nearly all of which have been spoken for. They’ll do their best to accommodate as many people as possible.
“You can’t really plan for something like this,” said Gerner. “You can’t get shirts in a day. We’re asking for a $10 donation for them, and it’s not the traditional design.”
Gerner said they encouraged people to get involved in the show of support, even if they ran or walked in their own neighborhoods.
Those who plan to run should plan on showing up at least 30 minutes early.
“We’re encouraging people to come plenty early, to just kind of bond,” said Gerner.
Those organizing the runs hope to show solidarity with their counterparts in Boston, as well as raise money for the victims. The runs, whether they occur in organized groups or alone in various neighborhoods, send a message that runners — and those who support them — won’t be easily intimidated.
“Marathoners are so resilient,” Gerner said. “Don’t mess with marathoners. We are a strong, tight group.”
Monday’s event isn’t just an opportunity for runners to bond, heal and support Boston, organizers and store owners invite anyone to join the effort.
“All of us runners and racers and marathoners really, hopefully realize we can’t do these things by ourselves,” Gerner said. “We have the support of family, friends and volunteers. This is not a one-man deal.”
He pointed out the words of the 8-year-old boy who was killed in the Boston Marathon bombings, Martin Richard, as a hope for the future.
“Stop hurting people.”
And while it may sound cliché, he hopes that Monday’s impromptu runs across the country will do more than raise money for the victims of this tragedy.
“If we come together and support each other, we can get through anything,” he said. “We’re all in this together.”