Minnesota runners head to Boston Marathon

Published 11:43 am Monday, April 21, 2014

By Albert Lea Tribune and Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — More than 600 Minnesota runners will line up for the start of the Boston Marathon this year, including 212 who ran last year and say they’re going back to finish what they started.

“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, a Medina resident who finished his 26th straight Boston before two bombs went off, killing three and injuring 260. “I have no doubt about it. That is the No. 1 reason for that race to be run.”

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From Warroad to Austin and Fergus Falls to Stillwater, the 615 Minnesota runners are part of a near-record field of 37,000-plus participants for Monday’s race. The runners will be united with half a million spectators in a display of pride and unity.

Some of the runners making the return trip are among the 5,600 or so who were unable to finish after Boston police barricaded the finish area. All of those runners were invited back this year without having to qualify.

Mike Johnson of Stillwater was running his first Boston Marathon last year and was about a mile from the finish line when he heard sirens and saw the scene break down into chaos.

“It was surreal,” said Johnson, 47, who’ll run again today. “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.”

Dan Foster, 49, of Edina, had already finished last year’s race and was eating lunch a few blocks away with his wife and two sons when the bombs exploded. Even today the what-if scenarios weigh on their minds, but Foster said his family supported his decision to go back this year.

“I think they are OK mentally with me going,” he said. “They’ll be in good shape.”

This year’s field includes some Minnesota residents who are new to the race and are determined to help start a fresh chapter in Boston.

Jennifer Flavin, 28, of Minnetonka, qualified for the marathon last June at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth. She said she drew strength and inspiration as she watched Boston’s resilience from afar.

The city’s reaction deepened her desire “to celebrate life and the opportunity that we get to go (to Boston),” she said. “I am not scared at all. Not intimidated.”


Marathon has high security

BOSTON — One year after a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs killed three people and wounded more than 260 others, turning a day of athletic triumph into one of tragedy, the Boston Marathon returns to the streets today. For the 118th edition of the world’s oldest annual marathon, security along the course will be tighter than ever.

As the sun rose over the center of Hopkinton, where the race starts, runners started to filter in early this morning, but the most obvious change was the heavy security presence, with state and local police everywhere, even on the rooftops of some buildings.

A bus dropping off runners had the words “Boston Strong” on the electronic sign at the front that usually posts the bus’s destination. A banner posted on a commercial building in Hopkinton read: “You are Boston Strong. You Earned This.”

Spectators coming to the start line had to pass through police checkpoints.

“There’ll be considerably more police presence,” Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Sunday. “But we also don’t want to have it, you know, kind of a race through a militarized zone. So it’s about striking a balance, and I think we have struck that balance.”

Runners attending the event will have to use clear plastic bags for their belongings, and fans hoping to watch near the finish line are encouraged to leave strollers and backpacks behind. More than 100 cameras have been installed along the route in Boston, and 50 or so “observation points” will be set up around the finish line “to monitor the crowd,” the Boston Athletic Association said.

Patrick said there have been no specific threats against the race or the city for the Massachusetts holiday of Patriots’ Day.

“We’re not taking that as a sign to sort of stand down,” he said. “We’re very prepared, and we’re assuring people as much as we can that it’ll be a fun day and a safe one.”

About 36,000 runners have registered for the race — the second-largest field in its history, many of them coming to show support for the event and the city that was shocked by the attack on its signature sporting event. Race organizers expanded the field from its recent cap of 27,000 to make room for more than 5,000 runners who were still on the course at the time of the explosions, for friends and relatives of the victims and for those who made the case that they were “profoundly impacted” by the attack.

Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo, who crossed the finish line on Boylston Street about three hours before the explosions, will return to defend their championships. Desisa returned to Boston last fall to donate his first-place medal to the city as a gesture of support.

Jeptoo, who also won the race in 2006, said she is hoping for a third victory.