June 19, 2018
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Maine runners take part in grass-roots efforts to honor, aid Boston Marathon victims

Courtesy of Jennifer Boudreau
Courtesy of Jennifer Boudreau
Approximately 70 people took part in #BostonStrongGardiner on Monday in Gardiner, a running event held to honor victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and reinforce the spirit of runners worldwide.
By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

GARDINER, Maine — Jennifer Boudreau, her two young children and brother-in-law were like thousands of other spectators lining Boylston Street in Boston during the midafternoon hours of April 15.

They were waiting for a loved one — Jennifer’s husband — to complete the 117th Boston Marathon.

Ward Boudreau finished the race in 3 hours, 7 minutes, amid the celebratory atmosphere that engulfs the city’s Back Bay area each Patriots Day when thousands of runners of all skill levels from around the world chase their competitive dream of completing the historic 26.2-mile run from Hopkinton to Boston.

But as Boudreau and her family began to leave the area, that upbeat aura was devastatingly interrupted.

“We had just gotten on the T [Boston’s public transportation system],” said Boudreau. “We heard some loud noises, but the T’s always loud so we didn’t think a lot about it.

“But it wasn’t long before we found out that it was the explosions. It was too close for comfort.”

Boudreau and her family were unharmed, but others weren’t so lucky after two bombs exploded not far from the marathon finish line. Three people were killed by the blasts, which were detonated within a few seconds of each other around 2:50 p.m., and 264 others have been treated for injuries at Boston hospitals, according to the latest reports.

Since then, Boudreau and thousands of others in Maine and beyond have organized and participated in events designed both to honor victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and reinforce the spirit of runners worldwide.

“It’s just really amazing to see the running community come together to show support for Boston and to show that we’re not going to be afraid and we’re going to keep going,” she said.

Perhaps the largest event of its kind in Maine will be held at 6 p.m. Monday in Portland’s Back Cove.

Organized by the Maine Running Company in conjunction with an effort by independent running stores nationwide to raise money for victims of the bombings, the One Fund Boston 5K run/walk filled its field of more than 600 participants in little more than 24 hours after being publicized on social media and through flyers distributed locally.

“We wanted to offer another outlet for people to come together to show our support for our fellow runners, because runners really are a family,” said Ryan Heisler, social media manager for Maine Running Company.

“It’s unbelievable how quickly it came about. The registration opened at 2 p.m. Monday and the field was filled by 3 p.m. Tuesday.”

Heisler worked at the John Hancock Sport & Fitness Expo held in conjunction with the marathon during the weekend preceding the Monday race, and while he wasn’t in the city on race day, the avid runner — who competed in the 2012 Boston Marathon — and his colleagues were stung by the incident but inspired by the response of local runners.

“On Tuesday [the day after the marathon] we did a community run out of the store and about a hundred people showed up on about four hours notice to support everybody in Boston,” he said. “It was remarkable when you think about it. People draw inspiration from a lot of different things, but in times like this you can look at the way people respond and draw inspiration from all the good that comes out.”

That led to the upcoming run-walk, with proceeds from entry-fee donations of $20 per participant going to One Fund Boston, the fund established by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to help the people most affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.

As of early Thursday afternoon that fund had generated more than $23.6 million in individual and corporate donations from around the world.

While the field for the Portland run was limited because Back Cove is an open trail and cannot be closed to the public at large, Heisler hopes others who support the cause will show up to cheer on the participants or perhaps purchase a commemorative “Runners for Boston” T-shirt — with proceeds from those sales also going to One Fund Boston.

Boudreau’s event was smaller but no less dedicated, attracting some 70 runners, joggers and walkers to Gardiner’s popular rail trail on Monday night.

That event was similarly organic in its origin, starting with an email request from a running blogger in San Francisco to organize tribute events around the world.

Boudreau, author of the “Running with the Girls” blog, received the email and turned to social media last weekend to organize #BostonStrongGardiner, one of 123 such events held around the country as well as in Canada, Brazil, England, France, the Czech Republic, Turkey and the Philippines.

“It was a gathering of kindred spirits,” she said. “There were runners, walkers, families, people with their dogs or pushing little ones in strollers. Runners are a tight-knit group and very supportive of each other and very strong-willed.”

The chain of events surrounding this year’s Boston Marathon also has motivated Boudreau on a personal running level.

While she has run two marathons and is training for next month’s Sugarloaf Marathon from Eustis to Kingfield, Boudreau has yet to run Boston.

“That’s my dream,” she said, “even more so now.”

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