Jacksonville, FL - It began as an idea to raise awareness, and maybe bring out 200 runners to show support for Boston.
It ended with more than 2400 people playing a part.
“You feel good supporting people that went through it, and you’d want people to do the same for you,” says Riverside runner Michelle Bravo.
The sense of community is something that drew a lot of runners out for the “Runners For Jacksonville” fun run Monday night. 1st Place Sports organized the run, and Store Manager David Martinson tells me he originally thought he would be able to beef up the size of a group that generally runs on Monday nights.
“I significantly underestimated the passion and loyalty of the Jacksonville running community,” he says.
The roughly 2400 people reflects both registered runners as well as people who signed up to buy a t-shirt. All proceeds from the $20 shirt, which simply says “Runners For Boston” and has a heart, are being donated to One Fund Boston- the fund established by Massachusetts government to help the victims of the Boston bombings.
“It’s somber, but at the same time, I think this is a way for us to bring some positivity to what happened,” Martinson says.
The only color as prominent in the crowd as the grey of that Boston shirt, was the blue and yellow of former Boston Marathon runners.
Karen Brown ran the Marathon in 2011 and 2012, and could barely describe the experience of being in that crowd.
“Gives me goosebumps thinking about it, it was the best experience I’ve ever had,” she says.
She plans to run the Marathon again, and is not the only one. Many of the runners were more determined than ever to not just run, but run the Boston Marathon.
“We can’t let these people put fear in our heart,” says Al Harvey, who tells me he’s been a runner for 40 years.
Harvey wasn’t planning on running the Marathon, but he’s now starting to train to spite the intent of the tragedy this year. He says coming out for a run in Jacksonville is the least he could do.
“It’s not gunna bring their families and loved ones back, but at least it will bring them some type of comfort,” he says.
For St. Johns County veteran Hans Greevers, a drive and $20 donation was his way of paying tribute to the victims.
“The attacks, to me, was almost an attack on families in our country,” he says.
And for Northeast Florida runners with Northeast US roots, the running community is truly nationwide. Kevy Ellis lives in Orange Park, but is originally from Maine, where she is actually returning soon. She was overwhelmed to see the support here in Jacksonville, but thinks it help sends an important message up to Boston.
“Stay strong, we’re all here supporting you,” she says.
She’s only been running a short time, but tells me she now feels more inspired than ever to keep going.