Early on a cold morning last week, Watertown Police Officer Catherine Welch was bright, wide-eyed, and ready to run. She chatted with two co-workers in a Framingham parking lot as they stretched briefly before launching into a 19-mile training run along the Boston Marathon route.
In previous years, one or two Watertown officers have run the Marathon independently, for personal goals, Welch said. But last April, days after two bombs exploded at the finish line, killing three people and wounding more than 260, Watertown was turned into the scene of a desperate shootout and manhunt involving the suspects.
So on April 21, a dozen Watertown officers — including Chief Ed Deveau — are planning to make the trek from Hopkinton to Boston, using entry numbers provided by the Boston Athletic Association at the department’s request.
“This time, we’re all doing it together to represent Watertown,” Welch said. The runners plan to stick together in various groups determined by pace, “so no one will have to run alone,” she said.
“With the one-year anniversary coming up, there are a lot of feelings and emotions,” Welch said. “But training for the Marathon brought us together and helped unify our department. It shows that we can do something positive in the face of something so tragic.”
One of the department’s runners, Lieutenant Michael Lawn, is organizing a 5K race through Watertown on April 19, which is the one-year anniversary of the capture of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Lawn said 320 people have already signed up for the race.
Sergeant Ken Delaney, another Watertown officer running the Marathon on Patriots Day, makes it clear why he’s putting up with the pain over the 26.2-mile course.
“I’m definitely running because of last year’s events,” he said. Delaney ran his first and only Boston Marathon in 2009. “It’s a way to acknowledge the people that supported us,” he said.
Delaney and some of his fellow runners will be raising money for the Sean Collier Self-Sponsor Scholarship, which honors the MIT police officer killed allegedly by the bombing suspects. Delaney said the department had already raised about $2,000 as of last week.
Delaney, Lawn, and Welch were all on duty April 19 last year, when Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, allegedly engaged police in a fierce gun battle in Watertown. Tamerlan was killed, and, after an intense manhunt that prompted an areawide shelter-in-place order, Dzhokhar was arrested that night while hiding in a boat being stored in a Franklin Street backyard.
“In the days following April 19, we were all working doubles — it was a pretty intense couple of days,” Welch said. “We had about 500 emergency calls that day, because everyone thought they might have seen Dzhokhar. We spent the whole day going door to door.”
Watertown Officer Andrew Civetti said he is running next month in gratitude of the dozens of law enforcement agencies that came to the town’s aid that tense April day.
“Countless departments came to Watertown,” he said. “I’m just trying to say thank you.”
After the community and its police force gained nationwide recognition for the shootout with the Tsarnaev brothers and the manhunt for Dzhokhar, Welch said, she is hoping that the Marathon spectators will still appreciate their actions one year later.
“Anticipating seeing that amount of people on the route makes it worthwhile,” Welch said. “We’ll all have Watertown police stuff on so we’re hoping that will get us some cheers to help us keep going.”
The 5K that Lawn has organized will start at Tufts Health Plan on Mount Auburn Street, and bring runners on Dexter Avenue and School Street — close to where gunfire rained down on Laurel Street last spring.
“Last year, the town was locked down, so one year later we want to open it up and celebrate Watertown and have a day where everyone can come out of the house and do a healthy event,” Lawn said. “We just thought it would be a good thing for community.”
The 3.1-mile race, dubbed the “Watertown Police Finish Strong 5K,” starts at 10 a.m. and costs $25 for adults, and $15 for those ages 17 and under. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Watertown Police Supervisor’s Association, the Watertown Police Foundation, and the One Fund Boston.
“Most of the money we’re making will be donated back to community programs,” Lawn said.
There will be a reception with food at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center on Nichols Avenue directly following the race, Lawn said.
“We’ve got some good things planned for that day,” he said. “I think it will be a great event.”
For more information on the 5K event, visit www.watertown.racewire.com.