SALT LAKE CITY — Cheers swelled from hundreds of spectators on either side of metal barricades as more than 10 runners in yellow and blue approached the finish line of the Salt Lake City Marathon.
They beamed as they stood on the line and held their hands over their hearts at four hours and 10 minutes, just after the time displayed on the Boston race clock when the first explosion sounded on Monday.
“We didn’t have legs to run today. We were all running on heart,” runner Rachel Moody said after the race. Moody ran in the Boston Marathon on Monday and paced a group of runners for the Salt Lake Marathon this weekend.
Just three days earlier, Moody was in her living room, tears streaming down her face as she admitted to leaving her running heart in Boston in the immediate aftermath of Monday's marathon.
“That was so my quintessential happy,” she said. “And I know it will never be the same and I will never get it back. But I will run again. Because I am a runner and nobody will stop me. You can’t stop us. Because we’re just that crazy.”
Days later, on a wet Saturday morning in Salt Lake City, she laced up her shoes and joined an estimated 7,000 participants in the Salt Lake City Marathon, others enjoying a half marathon, 5K, children's marathon, wheelchair and hand cycle race or bike tour.
At 11:09 a.m., 4 hours and 9 minutes into the marathon and right before Moody’s group approached the finish line, race coordinators held a moment of silence for the Boston Marathon participants and runners, marking the time of the bombings in Boston on Monday.
“Sweet Caroline,” an anthem of the Boston Red Sox, pierced the silence, just as it did at the race's start, and the crowd roared, pumping their fists during the trumpeted “Ba Ba Ba” part of the chorus.
The scene of cheering and joyful defiance of terrorism also played out elsewhere across the country Saturday, including in Fenway Park, where the Red Sox signaled the beginning of a return to normal even as it became the site of tributes and thanks — to those who are in mourning and those who helped resolve the week's conflict.
In Salt Lake City, some who ran alongside the pace group finished the Boston Marathon while other racers there were stopped early in Boston. A few of these runners joined the pacers at mile 25, Moody said, so they could get in the last mile of Boston that they had missed earlier in the week.
As the runner's legs got tired, they would think of those who lost their legs on Monday, and they would press forward, Moody said.
“To me, it’s a new beginning, it’s a way to start over," Moody said, adding, "We as runners are united and ready to take this on and to not back down.”
Why we run
Her group was one of three types of race participants sports psychology consultant Nicole Detling said she anticipated at Saturday's event. This first group, Detling said, were those who ran for Boston, who felt a connection with their fellow runners in Boston and raced to show their solidarity.
The second group, she said, includes those who chose to drop out for fear of something happening in the wake of the Boston explosions.
The third group, she said, recognizes the tragedy on Monday was awful, but still keeps their focus on the race.
Regardless of where runners fit in, the sport itself is collective. Runners tend to cheer each other and enjoy camaraderie because of the shared understanding that each is overcoming individual obstacles to run.
“The common bond we all share is we’re all trying to conquer ourselves,” Detling said.
Training is one of the first challenges racers face. On average, marathon training lasts for at least 16 weeks. Runners log upwards of 30 miles per week within three to six days.
Less than 10 years ago, Moody said she could barely run a mile.
In 2007 she ran her first 10K (6 miles) and worked her way up to a half marathon and then a marathon in 2009.
The Salt Lake City Marathon was Moody’s 16th. According to Detling, the marathoners who ran in Boston and again today took a vital step toward processing the trauma they experienced Monday.
“Honestly, it’s probably the best thing they could do,” she said.
Stepping away from fear for too long allows it to grow bigger, she said, so it was vital for these athletes to get right back in the race.
“One of the quickest ways to get over when you have those kinds of fears is to get back in it and do it right away,” Detling said.
The pace leader
About two months ago, Jonathan Crampton, head of Utah Race Pacers, called Moody to see if she would be willing to pace the Salt Lake City Marathon. She was hesitant because of the close timing of the Boston race, relented when she found out she could get some free running shoes out of it.
The motivation changed after Monday.
“If you wanna mess with the spirit of humanity, marathoners are not the place to start because in order to finish a marathon, you need true grit and determination.,” Moody said. “You will never find a person mentally stronger than someone who has run a marathon. You have to have that focus and determination.”
Boston was Paul Fulton’s sixth marathon. At 47, he has never traveled much, and said he felt like Fievel the mouse from the animated movie "An American Tail – A Country Mouse in a Big City." The race energy at the Boston marathon was electric, he said.
“I’ll tell you what. You wanna feel like a celebrity or a rock star? Put your name on your shirt and run the Boston Marathon,” Fulton said.
Fulton finished the Boston Marathon at the same time as Moody on Monday and was one of the pacers in Saturday’s Salt Lake City race. He said he wanted the runners he paced to experience the same excitement and energy he andMoody Moody received during the Boston Marathon.
“I want them to feel what it’s like to have the crowd yell ‘Go Rachel’ ‘Go Paul’ from the sidelines for the whole race,” Fulton said. “They deserve to have that.”
Still, the Boston bombings have their impact. As much as he enjoyed the energy from the crowd, he said, he is hesitant to have his family meet him at the finish line of his future races.
“At this point it’s always in the back of your mind. It’s always that lingering thought that you don’t want to think but it’s there. That one little twinge of ‘What if?’”
But perseverance, and overcoming pain to reach a goal is what being a marathon runner is all about. In a sense, the Boston Marathon didn't end with a bombing, it simply paused the race that picked up again in Salt Lake City five days later, and now is the metaphor for the country's fight against terrorism of any sort.
“I refuse to let it dictate what I’m going to do," Fulton said of the bombings.
There was more energy in this year’s crowd at the Salt Lake City Marathon than in years past, Fulton said, adding that its positive energy that carried them along.
“You had that Boston again and it was high fives all around.”
Chelsea Larson found out about the pacing group through emails. She ran the Boston Marathon on Monday and felt like she needed to be a part of this marathon as well.
“I thought, “Oh my gosh. There’s no way I could miss that,’” she said. “I was just really impressed with what the runners were going to be doing.”
She said she thinks more people will still participate in running.
“I think the runner spirit is going to keep people coming back and participating.”
After the race, Moody, Fulton and Larson joined the others who ran both races for photos posed in front of a tribute banner, with hundreds of scrawled messages declaring "Runners unite" and "Pray for Boston."
Salt Lake City Marathon coordinators will send the banner to those in charge of the Boston Marathon.
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