When Hurricane Sandy forced the cancellation of the New York Marathon this past October, the running community responded with a "run anyway' event that raised money for hurricane victims and celebrated the international spirit of participation.
Groups ran through Central Park, traveled to Staten Island to deliver food and water, and toiled in cleanup relief to areas devastated by the storm.
The disruption to a race for which runners had trained months, even years, and traveled thousands of miles to compete did not stop their desire to make a statement about coming together as a community. They helped people in need, and they ran anyway.
The persevering spirit of the running community met a far greater test Monday when homemade bombs rocked the finish line in the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. Three people including the 8-year-old son of a runner were killed and more than 170 were injured, some critically, their limbs shattered and amputated in the blast.
The bombs were clearly part of a carefully executed attack intended to kill and maim large numbers of people. Explosives packed with shrapnel were left in bags on the ground near the finish line where thousands of spectators lined the streets. The timing of the blasts near the four-hour mark of the marathon coincided with the time when the least experienced runners often finish to large crowds of cheering well-wishers.
"This was a heinous and cowardly act,' President Barack Obama said Tuesday. "And given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror.'
The explosions turned the joy of running at Boston to horror for runners. "It was such an accomplishment, but it all changed so quickly,' said Courtney McNulty, 26, a first-time Boston Marathon runner from Elkins Park, Pa.
"I'm so upset and so angry that someone would do this to such a wonderful day where a city comes together and shows itself to the world,' said Jill Beccaris-Pastore, a veteran marathon runner from Glenside, Pa.
Many on Tuesday were crediting runners for their unmatched display of compassion amid the mayhem. "...What the world saw yesterday in the aftermath of the explosions were stories of heroism and kindness, and generosity and love: Exhausted runners who kept running to the nearest hospital to give blood, and those who stayed to tend to the wounded, some tearing off their own clothes to make tourniquets,' Obama said in his Tuesday address.
Beccaris-Pastore said the running community would continue to come together to support the victims and show whoever was responsible for the explosion that nothing will deter them from pursuing the sport they love.
Around the nation this week, runners are wearing Boston race shirts or the marathon's colors, blue and gold, to honor the victims. Social media users are promoting the Twitter hashtag "runforboston'as a way to show solidarity with the injured and dedication to their sport.
"When you go out to run, it's in support of this and showing that an event like this and a tragedy that goes along with this, you shouldn't hide from it,' said Beccaris-Pastore. The qualities of humanity that runners reflect propel us forward even in the face of this latest unspeakable tragedy.
Runners persevere. They tolerate, they rise above, and they prove that resilience will get you to the finish line.
The running community reminds us to support the wounded, pray for the grieving and seek justice with fairness and restraint.
And, to #runforBoston.