EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

April 21, 2014

Race makes room for those affected by bombs

BOSTON — “I need to run.”

The messages started arriving just hours after the bombings, pleading for an entry into the 2014 Boston Marathon. For months the calls and emails continued, runners begging for an opportunity to cross the finish line on Boylston Street and convinced it would ease at least some of their grief.

“They’d say, ‘I’m not a qualified runner; I don’t think I ever will be. I train. I run. I could do it. But because of what happened last year, I need to run,’” Boston Athletic Association executive director Tom Grilk said last week.

“It might have been because they were present at the finish, or they knew somebody who was working or was affected. They might have been somebody who lives in Haverhill, Mass., and they were watching the race and it hit ‘em hard. That was true for a lot of people.

“And we received some of these communications and we thought, ‘What do we do?’”

The B.A.A. had already expanded this year’s field to include more than 5,000 runners who were stranded on the course when the two explosions killed three and wounded 264 others. A few extra invitations were sprinkled among the first-responders and the victims, or their families; others went to charities and the towns along the route; some who said they were personally touched by the tragedy were already given bibs.

But organizers felt they might still be missing people, people who perhaps didn’t think their trauma was worthy amid all the lost limbs and physical scars. So, in November, they announced that about 500 bibs would be available for those “personally and profoundly impacted by the events of April 15, 2013.”

In 250-word essays submitted over the website, 1,199 would-be runners made their case. Almost 600 had the connection the B.A.A. was looking for.

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