Salt Lake City runners pay tribute to Boston in first marathon since bombing
04/20/2013 04:33:23 PM MDT
SALT LAKE CITY — As the knot of runners clad in the yellow jerseys of the 2013 Boston Marathon entered Liberty Park, the cheers got louder and spectators slapped high fives with racers before moment of silence descended on the finish line of the Salt Lake City Marathon.
And then, just as it had as the race began, Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline' began playing on the loudspeaker. Rachel Moody, Paul Fulton and a dozen other Boston runners hit the finish in four hours, 9 minutes, marking the moment in the Boston race when two improvised bombs detonated five days earlier.
"Boston, baby! This is what marathon is about,' shouted Moody, of Herriman, Utah. "I didn't have the legs to run today. I didn't run with my legs. I ran with my heart.'
Much about the 10th annual Salt Lake City marathon honored the city where bombs turned the nation's oldest marathon into a bloody crime scene. Runners said they had not seen so much enthusiasm from the spectators at the Salt Lake race — despite deteriorating weather as the morning wore on, a brief respite, then more chilling rains.
The soggy, cold conditions hardly dampened the festive mood of the race, which started Saturday morning following an earlier moment of silence. Only hours earlier Boston authorities captured their surviving suspect.
The emotional finish was also the second time for "Sweet Caroline,' the Diamond classic that is played — and sung — at every Boston Red Sox game in Fenway Park. (Diamond himself sang it Saturday night in Boston.)
The song also was blaring overhead when 7,000 Utah runners headed down Mario Capecchi Drive at 7 a.m., their arms raised in a salute to the traumatized city across the country.
"It's nice to see all the people come out,' said Salt Lake City police chief Chris Burbank as the starters ran under the Legacy Bridge. "When it comes to crime and terrorism, it's important that we don't let it control our lives. That's what freedom and democracy are all about.'
Several American flags bobbed up and down in the tight throng of runners and many wore green in honor of the city with strong Irish heritage. Many also donned T-shirts, blue ribbons and bracelets, bearing the words "Run for Boston,' that were passed around at the start.
"It's heart breaking,' said Vassi Maritsas, 47, of Holladay, Utah, competing in her third Salt Lake City Marathon. She needs to reach Liberty Park in less than three hours, 55 minutes to qualify for the Boston Marathon, among the world's most prestigious foot races. Last week's bombing was not going to derail her goal.
"If I let myself be afraid of everything I won't accomplish much and I won't teach my kids anything,' Maritsas said.
"This is the safest race in the history of the world,' said Unified Police Department Sgt. Jason Ashment as he directed runners through Holladay, just past the race's halfway point. "I'd put money on that. I'd bet a year's salary.'
More than 500 officers from multiple jurisdictions provided the heightened security. Earlier, as a packed TRAX train full of marathon runners pulled into the University of Utah Stadium Station at 5:30 a.m., a bomb sniffing dog and two police officers entered and walked the length of the train.
"That's a first. I've never seen that at a race,' said half-marathoner Heather Wells.
"We have TSA (Transportation Security Administration) behavior specialists riding trains and watching people,' said Utah Transit Authority Police Capt. Jason Petersen. "We started at 3 a.m. to screen all of our stations along the line and make sure they were secure.'
Most runners shrugged off the extra security, as their conversations on trains focused more on shoes and running strategy than any danger.
"The only thing I'm concerned about is whether the rain will let up,' said Scott Ivins, one of the team of pace runners who help contestants keep to targeted times. "I'm not concerned in the slightest,' said runner Melissa Goodger.
Runner Jerrilee Erickson said, "I was concerned early in the week' after the Boston bombing, "and everyone who talked to me was a little worried.' But she said that disappeared — especially after police captured or killed the suspects there. "I'm not worried at all now.'
As the course wound through the suburbs, it took runners past a Big O Tires franchise where employees had propped up a large sign on the front of their boss's heavy-duty pickup. "Stay Strong Boston,' it said.
Brian Woolf, of Sandy, Utah, broke out his Boston Bruins jersey to cheer on his 17-year-son, Carter, in his second Salt Lake City marathon. Carter ran it last year in just over four hours, with Brian at the finish line to see it. What if that had been Boston this year, Brian Woolf winced, shaking off the thought. "To have something so beautiful in people's minds as finishing a marathon, to have it disrupted by something like that, it's sad,' he said.
A little farther east on 6200 South, Sandy's Jerry Garner was part of a sizable family contingent cheering on his daughter, Allison Gerrard, as she ran her second marathon this week. She'd been in Boston Monday, finishing 10 minutes before the explosion, but got caught up in all of the fear and confusion of the moment, comforted by a complete stranger.
Jerry Garner whipped out his cell phone and read from her daughter's blog about that terror-filled time, weeping when her memoir talked of bursting into tears. But he quickly composed himself to read her two key points: "Kindness and courage must prevail and courage must not give way to fear.' And while running 26 miles in Salt Lake City so soon after doing it Boston would be difficult, she acknowledged, "I'm whole, so I will run for those who cannot.'
Reporters Lee Davidson and Mike Gorrell contributed to this story.