“A lot of people came at the last minute after work,” People for Care and Learning International Director Fred Garmon said after the event. “Because we didn’t do registration until the time of the event, we had no idea how many would come out.”
Garmon said they were pleased the sky was clear, but the sun was hot and that was the No. 1 complaint as runners and dogs crossed the finish line with their tongues hanging out.
“It is too hot,” one runner said at the finish line. “I ran worse today than during my training runs.”
Despite the heat, the first runners of the unofficial 5K run crossed the finish line in 20:47 minutes.
And because of the heat, only two girls dared the hot sidewalk to draw chalk art messages to Boston. Abby Smith, daughter of Marty and Aranda Smith, Cleveland; and Miia Thompson, daughter of Mark and Katriina Thompson, Cleveland; each received a $50 gift card for LongHorn Steakhouse.
“I think the sidewalk was too hot and nobody wanted to sit on it,” Garmon said.
Some people participated to show unity with Boston and others combined something they like to do anyway with a good cause.
Cleveland Middle School Wrestling Coach Eric Mountain and his wife, Laura, and their children, Emma and Luke, had a different perspective on the event. The family was there because they recently returned from Boston.
“We went to Boston two weeks ago and went to the finish line. While we were there, you could just see the pride in the city and how strong they are. It’s a beautiful city,” he said. “It felt like we were on holy ground at the finish line.”
He does not think the April 15 bombing demoralized Boston.
According to past news accounts, two pressure cooker bombs exploded at 2:49 p.m., killing three people and injuring 264 others. The bombs exploded about 13 seconds and 210 yards apart, near the finish line on Boylston Street.
The suspects were identified as two brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, of Chechen descent. The two brothers allegedly killed an MIT police officer, carjacked an SUV, and initiated an exchange of gunfire with the police in Watertown, Mass. During the firefight, a police officer was critically injured, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was injured but escaped.
An unprecedented manhunt ensued on April 19, with thousands of law enforcement officers searching a 20-block area of Watertown. Police arrested Dzhokhar after a Watertown resident discovered the suspect hiding in a boat in his backyard.
“We talked to a police officer and a firefighter at the finish line and they were both very supportive, looking to the future and showing how strong the city is. All of the damage has been repaired. You can’t tell anything ever happened.”
Laura said both first responders were at the finish line on the day of the bombing and the police officer was in on the capture of one of the brothers.
“They had to point out to us where the damage was. It blew out a bunch of glass in the stores at the finish line. All of that was fixed and it looked perfect,” she said. “In a way, it made you angry because you wonder how someone could do this, but Boston citizens didn’t seem down. They kind of built you up.”
Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway Board Chair Cameron Fisher said he is hopeful the community will continue to embrace the recreational trail that follows alongside Mouse Creek.
“This particular area of the Greenway is more active because it is the midpoint of the Greenway, because of the playground, water fountain and parking,” he said. “This is the perfect place to have an event like this. It solidifies the community’s love of the Greenway.”
He said when the Greenway was first started, Run Now was the type of activity the committee wanted to see take place.
“This has almost become a city park without being a city park.”
Susanna Sunn, Cleveland, was there with her twin sister, Katriina Thompson, for the two-mile walk because of the bombing.
“It was so sad to see something that was supposed to be a fun time — it’s a big accomplishment to run a marathon in itself — then for the outcome to be so tragic. It was just heartbreaking.”
People for Care and Learning, Cleveland Family YMCA, Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, United Way of Bradley County and other businesses and organizations hosted the event.
Garmon said because the bombing occurred at a running event, the U.S. running community felt the terrorists were trying to intimidate them into staying away from events such as Run Now.
“Running, walking and cycling groups know that will not happen and we will raise money for those victims,” he said during prerace announcements.
State Rep. Kevin Brooks concluded the formalities by reading, on behalf of Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, a proclamation declaring June 19 as Run Now Day in the city and county.