One week after Boston Marathon bombings, Lincoln honors victims

By Torin Otis, NewsNetNebraska

Brian Robertson was just two football fields away when the first explosion went off at 2:49 p.m.

“There was this smoke and a very loud sound,” Robertson said, “like one of those fireworks you’re not supposed to import to Nebraska.”

What Robertson thought was an untimely celebration turned to sheer horror about 10 seconds later, when Robertson saw the white flash of the second explosion, which occurred closer to him than the first. He had run 26 miles of the Boston Marathon and chaos was consuming the finish line.

“That’s when I realized this wasn’t a celebration, this was something serious,” said Robertson, a mechanical and materials engineering professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The explosions killed 3, including an 8-year-old boy, and injured more than 260 others.

Days later, the most watched manhunt in United States history shut down Boston. City streets were eerily bare, like something you see in a post-apocalyptic movie scene. Subways, trains, and buses were stopped. Taxi service was temporarily frozen. Businesses were closed. One suspect died in a shootout with police. The other was found alive, but wounded, hiding in a boat.

Exactly one week after the Boston Marathon bombings, and seemingly a world away, the Lincoln running community took time to honor the victims of the tragedy.

How? By running.

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As part of a nationwide “Runners for Boston” event, organized by Independent Running Retailers Association (IRRA), Lincoln was one of several cities around the country whose independent running companies raised money for the bombing victims.

The day started with pouring rain. An hour before the event started, it turned to sleet. By the end of the run, it turned to snow.

Runners were lined up along the downtown buildings, standing under the overhangs, waiting to give $20 to join the event with all proceeds going to OneFundBoston.org.

Hundreds more were packed in to the closed down Spaghetti Works building, where they would finish the run, welcomed with water, bagels, cookies, and most importantly, warmth.

In spite of the weather, more than 1,000 runners showed up outside Lincoln Running Company in downtown Lincoln in below freezing temperatures.

Downtown streets were packed. Runners of all ability hit the course. People in wheelchairs moved along next to joggers in dry-fit clothes. There was even that one guy who ran without a shirt.

Rob Hemmer wasn’t that guy, but he had family in Boston, and no weather was going to keep him from showing his support.

“It’s so simple, twenty dollars,” Hemmer said of the nationwide campaign. “I’m going to run anyway, why not come down here and give twenty bucks for it.”

Ann Ringlein, manager at Lincoln Running Company, couldn’t have been more proud, and said the weather only made the experience more enjoyable.

“It just shows how awesome runners are and it shows this is what we do in all kinds of weather,” said Ringlein.

Ringlein ordered 600 “Runners for Boston” shirts as an incentive to show up. Those shirts were gone within 40 minutes. Those that couldn’t come for the run ordered shirts separately, all money donated to the One Fund Boston.

In total, Lincoln alone raised $28,000 in its fun run through downtown.

For Robertson, his first run after the bombings was an emotional one.

“You can’t help but think about it,” said Robertson.

The Boston Athletic Association is still working towards a resolution for those runners like Robertson who were unable to cross the official finish line.

When asked if Robertson had any intentions of participating in the race next year, he smiled.

“I thought it was a once in a lifetime thing,” said Robertson. “Now, if I were offered the chance, I think I’d do it.”

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