Minnesotans strong for Boston: Marathoners are back in the race

  • Article by: BOB TIMMONS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 21, 2014 - 10:06 AM

The race will be secondary Monday for the first time in the history of the Boston Marathon. Close to 40,000 runners, including more than 600 from Minnesota, will represent a show of strength as the healing from last year's terrorism continues.

Choose a runner: four athletes tell their stories

Strong for Boston

The race will be secondary Monday for the first time
in the history of the Boston Marathon.
Close to 40,000 runners, over 600 from Minnesota, will represent a show of strength as the healing from last year’s terrorism continues.

Stories by Bob Timmons, Star Tribune

The world’s most revered marathon will run Monday from the idyllic New England village of Hopkinton to the heart of downtown Boston, just as it does every April.

This time, the spirit of the race also will run through Minnesota.

A wave of 615 runners from across the state will line up for the start of Monday’s Boston Marathon, uniting with a half-million spectators and runners in a massive display of pride and support for an event still recovering from the searing wounds of deadly bomb blasts at the finish line last April.

Of those Minnesota marathoners, 212 are back in Boston to reclaim their race, one year after they were witness to chaos and carnage of the terrorist attack, the first on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001. They are back to finish what they started. They are back with raw emotions, insulted to this day that their beloved tradition has been tarnished. They are back to honor a city that had to mourn three deaths and 260 injuries, many of them serious, from the blasts.

“The running community will support and will come back bigger and stronger than ever in defiance of what happened and in tribute and support for the victims,” said Jim Driscoll of Medina, who finished his 26th consecutive Boston before the bombs went off. “I have no doubt about it. That is the Number 1 reason for that race to be run.”

From Warroad to Austin, from Fergus Falls to Stillwater, the 615 Minnesotans are part of a field of 37,000-plus participants, second-most in Boston history to the marathon’s 100th anniversary race of 38,000 in 1996.

“Take all of the previous years and then take last year ... to be in that race this year, it’ll be one of the most memorable races of all time,” said Dick Beardsley, perhaps Minnesota’s most famous marathoner. Beardsley, who came within two seconds of winning Boston in 1982, will be there in spirit on Monday. “It’s going to be a sporting event like the world has never seen.”

‘Minnesota Strong’

In the aftermath of the attack, Bostonians rallied. Their compassion and resolve cast light into the dark days that followed the pressure-cooker bombs and the manhunt for the suspects. That display of “Boston Strong” was a counterforce. It instilled hope, too, that the city’s venerable race would endure.

Minnesotans responded with urgency. Twin Cities in Motion, which puts on a series of running events including the Twin Cities Marathon, saw a spike in registrations and volunteers for local races, said Executive Director Virginia Brophy Achman. The organization dedicated its Medtronic TC 1 Mile race last May to ­Boston, donating $10,000 to the One Fund, which provides aid to bombing victims.

Driscoll said last May’s 1 Mile was a tonic. Boston marathoners were encouraged to wear the race colors, the blue and yellow.

“To lace up the shoes, to put the Boston gear back on two weeks after the race, it was very emotional.”

Minnesota will have the 16th-most participants among states.

Some of the 212 returnees are among the 5,633 who were unable to finish last year when Boston police barricaded the finish area. All of those runners were invited back by the Boston Athletic Association this year, no qualifying needed.

About a mile from completion, first-timer Mike Johnson’s run ended with confusion and sirens instead of finish-line flags and cheers.

“It was surreal,” said Johnson, 47, of Stillwater. “I was caught up in the emotion of the people that were around me and dealing with the unknown. … A person nearby was hysterical. Just to be around someone like that just hits the heart. I wasn’t full of fear, but I was full of emotion.”

Johnson will be back Monday, motivated to finish on his terms. Even those who crossed the 2013 finish line have felt a calling to run Boston again.

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