As the One Fund runners make their way through the five boroughs of the ING New York City Marathon on November 3, their thoughts will be not only on the finish line in Central Park, but also on that of the Boston Marathon last April 15.
There, three people were killed and at least 260 were injured when two bombs exploded on Boylston Street near the finish line. Almost all of the victims were spectators, who moments before had been joyously welcoming the runners as they approached their moment of triumph.
“The spectators are so much a part of what we do,” said Amy Zebala of St. Louis, MO, who had just arrived back at her hotel after finishing in 3:38:54. “I think they have no idea how significant they are; how much you need them. The idea of running in New York for Boston, to be able to show the spectators in New York how important they are and how much they mean to runners, and to me, I think is really important.”
Two of the injured—one of whom lost a leg—are friends of Tara Jennings, a runner from Cambridge, MA, who was halted less than a mile from the finish line when the race was stopped after the blasts. The women had been watching the race outside the Forum restaurant, where the second bomb went off. Jennings had already been accepted to the ING New York City Marathon when she learned about the team raising money for The One Fund, which assists victims and their families.
“I was planning to dedicate my New York race to them,” said Jennings, 32. “I had talked to them about it, and they were very excited. Then I saw The One Fund and thought, ‘Wow, that’s a way to make it even more important, and make more of an impact.’”
The team, whose 16 members include runners from across the United States, hopes to raise $50,000. To visit its Crowdrise page, click here.
A third One Fund runner, Jeff Merritt, remembers the support he received during the unseasonably hot 2012 Boston Marathon, whether from the random spectators manning hoses or from his wife and two friends, who met him along the course with bags of ice.
Merritt, himself a spectator at more than one Boston Marathon, said he thought he knew what to expect in terms of crowd support, “but it still really just blew me away. It’s just an amazing experience, and the crowds are so much a part of it.”
The 42-year-old from Sudbury, MA, was born in NYC, and he knows the ING New York City Marathon’s reputation for huge and enthusiastic crowds along the entire 26.2-mile course.
“You know most of them are out there cheering for somebody in particular,” he said, “but they’re cheering for the thousands of strangers they see, as well.”
During his morning run the day after the bombings, Merritt said, he realized that he needed to do something. He soon learned about the One Run for Boston, a nonstop cross-country relay that began in Los Angeles on June 9 and ended at the Boston Marathon finish line on June 30 to raise money for The One Fund. Merritt ran the last three legs, about 20 miles from Framingham to the finish line.
He grabbed the opportunity, he said, “because I didn’t really feel like I’d done enough.”
Zebala, 39, summed it up.
“They’re out there for other people,” she said of spectators. “They get nothing from it. By raising money for The One Fund, it’s a way to directly support the people who were supporting us.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg