The deadly bombings near the finish line of last month’s Boston Marathon stopped runners in their tracks, many just minutes away from what they expected would be the triumphant, redemptive end to months of grueling training and fund-raising.
But on a dreary, drizzly Saturday morning, thousands of runners and their supporters turned out to wrap up some unfinished business: jogging the final mile from Kenmore Square to Boylston Street and reclaiming the long-imagined moment they were denied in April.
Just after crossing the finish line Saturday, 25-year-old graduate student Sarah Rudolph grabbed her boyfriend, Kenny De Los Reyes, and squeezed him hard around the neck.
“Finishing today was more emotional than I thought it would be,” said Rudolph, who was stopped at mile 25 of the Marathon and had several friends injured by the bombing. “I was happy feeling like I had finally completed the last little bit of the race, but in my mind, I was going through all my friends that were hurt. It was a little bit overwhelming.”
The event, called OneRun and bearing the slogan “we’ll get our finish,” was organized by a coalition of Boston running clubs and businesses. Word about the race spread quickly on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, organizers said, and about 3,000 participated.
OneRun drew a heavy police presence, with officers lining the sidewalk of Boylston Street and patrol cars guarding each intersection along the route. No security incidents or medical emergencies were reported, according to officials at the finish line.
Wild cheers greeted the runners as they made their way down Boylston Street past the site of the twin bombings. Employees and patrons of shops and restaurants came outside to clap and yell encouragement, some wiping away tears.
Jarrod Clowery, a Stoneham resident badly injured in the second blast outside the Forum restaurant, walked from there to the finish line with the runners Saturday. He was promoting the Stoneham Strong fund, which is raising money to cover the medical expenses of his tight-knit group of friends, several of whom lost limbs or were otherwise injured in the bombings.
“I wish I could have given every single one of those runners [Saturday] a medal,” Clowery said. “I was just awestruck. I couldn’t believe all these people came. I tried to make eye contact with as many people as I could. All I could see was good intentions . . . I got chills up my spine. It was probably one of the better moments of my life.”
Clowery, 35, still faces at least two surgeries, but said he feels blessed because his legs were spared. The brush with death has left him with a deep sense of purpose.
“I feel obligated to give back,” he said. “If I just take the donations and slink back into my life and try to get ‘normal,’ I’m not doing all those people who helped me justice. I need to show all the people who supported me, all the good people of world, that they didn’t waste their time keeping me around.”
Joanne Pomeranz, a 47-year-old resident of Hollis, N.H., stood at the finish line Saturday posing for photos with her family. A little more than five weeks earlier, the first-time marathoner and member of Bill Rodgers’s Zoo New England Marathon Team had chugged to the top of Heartbreak Hill and was ready to coast downhill to the finish.
“Running the Boston Marathon had always been a dream of mine,” Pomeranz said. “And I’m a survivor of breast cancer, so for me to even to be there was quite amazing.”
But Heartbreak Hill was as far as she would get. Organizers ran onto the course and waved the runners off.
“They said, ‘The race is over,’ ” she recalled. “I couldn’t believe it. It was heartbreaking.”
Pomeranz said she ran Saturday to get closure and to set an example for her young daughter and nieces: “We’re going to finish what we started.”
Also celebrating at the finish line Saturday were Jesse and Carolyn Edsell-Vetter of Medford, with their children, Yoni, 7, and Ethan, 2. The pair ran the Marathon on behalf of the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, raising well over $21,000 for the group, which helps provide housing for homeless, elderly, disabled, and low- and moderate-income individuals and families. They were also celebrating their 10-year wedding anniversary.
Both were within a mile of the finish when the bombs went off.
“The hardest thing for us is, we spent the better part of six months raising $20,000 . . . and we were supposed to celebrate that by running the Marathon,” Jesse said. “To have it stopped was pretty devastating.”
Like Pomeranz, the Edsell-Vetters hoped Saturday’s short run would send a message to their children.
“I felt like they should be here to watch us finish this,” Jesse said. “Especially for our older son, I want him to see what it takes after something really bad happens to push through and finish the job.”
A brief pre-run ceremony on Beacon Street included speeches by City Councilor Mike Ross and Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino, along with patriotic music from the children’s choir of St. Ann Parish in Dorchester, the church attended by the family of 8-year-old bombing victim Martin Richard.
A team of MIT campus police officers among the runners wore shirts honoring Sean Collier, the officer who was shot and killed in Cambridge allegedly by the bombing suspects.
“It’s our chance to just run and show support to the victims,” said 32-year-old patrolman Karl Martinsen. “It’s a special event. It will be a short run, but emotional.”
Martinsen, who was a close friend of Collier, said Saturday’s run was another step in an ongoing process of healing.
“It’s been hard,” he said. “Fortunately, the department and all the guys we work with, we’re like a family. We’ve been there for each other, and today is an extension of that.”
Rudolph said that while Saturday’s run helped provide some closure, it simply was not the same as the real thing.
“Nothing can really replace the feeling of finishing a Marathon, when your legs are tired, you’re burnt out, and you feel like you can’t take that last step,” she said. “That moment was stolen from a lot of us. . . .
“I definitely want to do the whole thing from start to finish. I think most people will run again. That’s just the spirit of Boston.”