BY DAN NEPHIN, Staff Writer
Clad in blue and yellow running clothes -- Boston Marathon colors -- 175 runners trekked the Red Rose Run course Sunday to support victims of the marathon bombings.
On their shirtfronts, they pinned black paper with the Boston skyline in white, the date 4-15-13 and the words "Runners United to Remember."
Samantha McNally, Pennsylvania's top female finisher at Boston this year at just under 2 hours and 58 minutes, spoke to the crowd at Binns Park in Lancaster before another runner led them in the national anthem.
McNally cited reasons people run: to test one's limits, for stress relief, for fitness.
And for spectators at races, "It's about supporting (and) cheering family and friends and witnessing the triumph of the human spirit," said McNally, 26, a Manheim Township history teacher.
"And in Boston this week, it was not just the runners who showed that spirit. It was the volunteers, the doctors and nurses, and police and firefighters and EMTs and guardsmen who ran toward the explosions to treat the wounded," she said.
"Terrorism did not harm that spirit -- it revealed it," she said.
"And so we gather here today to run in strong solidarity with the victims and first responders of the Boston tragedy."
The run was similar to others held across the country over the weekend honoring the victims and heroes of the Massachusetts attack.
"We just thought that this would be a good way to honor victims of the tragedy and a good way for the Lancaster running community to come together and show their support," said Michele Christe, one of the organizers.
More than $1,300 was collected, she said, which will be sent to The One Fund Boston, the official fund to help those most affected by the bombings.
Acknowledging the growing crowd at Binns Park, Christe said runners are "a very giving community. They all care about each other."
Christe, of East Hempfield Township, said the run attracted a "who's who" of the Lancaster running community.
Scott Miller, race director at the Garden Spot Village marathon and half-marathon, which was held two weeks ago, helped spread the word about Sunday's run on Facebook.
"When I look at our promotional efforts for the Garden Spot Village marathon, we got 1,200 runners, we got 1,700 or 1,800 people who 'liked' our Facebook page.
"We got over 5,000 Facebook views just for this," he said.
Miller and Christe were grateful to Lancaster officials.
"There are other cities that have closed these (runs for Boston) down," Miller said.
Tim Schuler, 49, a Lancaster native living in Chambersburg, heard about Sunday morning's five-mile run from his friend, Mark Amway, owner of the Inside Track running store.
Schuler needed to be at it, he said as he stood in his 2013 Boston Marathon shirt.
He finished the race in just over 2 hours, 50 minutes and was three blocks away at a restaurant when the bombs exploded.
"It really hits home, an event like Boston, which everyone cherishes, especially runners ... and the fact that so many people were affected by (the bombings). To come out here and see the support from everybody is just incredible," he said.
Schuler has run Boston four times and said he'll definitely return.
At the halfway point of Sunday's run in Lancaster County Central Park, Bill Smith, historian of the Lancaster Road Runners Club, stood by his truck and handed out water.
He learned about the run via email.
Smith has run each of the 36 Red Rose Runs but now sticks mainly to trail running. Still, he wanted to help, but also wanted to save his knees for the race, so he decided to hand out water.
"I thought (the run) was a fantastic response for such a short notice to have 150 to 200 people down there. And I thought the people coming together to raise money -- and the camaraderie and sharing to help with the Boston mess -- I thought it was a great response, and I wanted to be a part of it," he said.
"I just think the whole running community is fantastic as far as what they're doing, and this is happening all over the country," he said.
As with most Americans, the bombings were a subject of discussion and perplexity among Lancaster's running community.
Why target runners and spectators, they wondered?
At the Lancaster Road Runners Club weekly Tuesday run, Laurie Hess of Lititz tried to make sense of the bombings.
She ran Boston in 2009 and has run 20 marathons, never the same one twice.
And she'll keep running them, she said, though the attack at Boston did give her pause about the vulnerability of such events.
The race director of her next marathon, the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon in May, sent an email saying security would be beefed up.
But attacking an event that celebrates the joy of human achievement made no sense to her.
"I think, for me, one of the things is, all my running friends have such a positive outlook on life. It's fun to be around them because they feel good about themselves," she said.
"... When you're running, you have something to feel good about."
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