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Marathoners pay tribute to Boston victims on the run
Runners leave the starting line at the 2009 Rinas Run in Ripon. This year, the road race will feature a half-marathon for the first time. - photo by HIME ROMERO

• WHAT: 5-kilometer and half-marathon road race in honor of Rina Brocchini and to raise funding for the Stouffer Field Revitalization Project.
• WHEN: Saturday, May 11. Start time: 7 a.m.

Michelle Crippen and Debbie Schickert were sickened by what they saw, but couldn’t pull away from their TVs.

Bomb blasts no more than 20 seconds apart had turned the finish line at the Boston Marathon into a blood bath on Monday afternoon.

The casualties were many. At last report, three were killed and more than 170 were injured.

“My heart sank immediately,” said Crippen, an administrator at Woodward Elementary and the school’s running club coordinator.

While federal and local law enforcement officials try to make sense of the act of terrorism – no arrests have been made, though officials are pursuing at least one suspect – this much is already understood: the spirit of a marathoner has never been stronger.

The Boston Athletic Association has vowed to return in 2014 and shows of support have cropped up all over the country, including here in the Central Valley.

On Tuesday, many runners wore their favorite race shirts in honor of those affected by Monday’s tragedy.

A Facebook group – Runners United to Remember – was launched, encouraging the active and dormant marathoner to dedicate a run to the victims of the Boston Marathon explosion.

Makeshift bibs were created for those runners to wear. Many posted pictures to the group’s page from their Tuesday run, detailing their experience.

Some ran hard, funneling all that anger and rage and sadness into every footfall.

Others ran long, a tribute to the 26.2 miles that constitute a marathon.

Crippen is a member of the Facebook group and a one-time marathoner. She plans to run 11 miles in honor of the victims on Saturday in her Surf City Marathon race shirt.

“Such a joyous event for the incredible athletes who trained so hard and for the spectators who were there to support their loved ones,” Crippen said. “Such a joyous moment turned quickly into tragedy panic and fear. My heart goes out to the injured and their families.

“This cowardly act does not affect my desire to be a runner.”

Marathoners, like all endurance athletes, use pain and emotion as fuel. Add terrorism to a list of motivators that already includes cancers, death and divorce.

Schickert said marathoners likely dealt with Monday’s news in three stages: Roll call (where are the runners we know and are they OK?); what can we do (tributes, etc.); and resolve.

“Runners at that level go through all kinds of adversity to get to that point. Injuries, weather, schedules, family/time balance, setbacks, all that,” the Manteca native said. “We run with pepper spray and headlamps and rain gear. Not a lot stops us. We learn to work around the adversity and adopt it into the training program.

“We will be more careful with our families at the races to make sure they stay safe, but we will not stop going.”

The local race calendar will go on without a hitch. Rina’s Run is the area’s next major road race and will feature a half-marathon for the first time in its six years.

Ripon Athletic Community Foundation president Stephanie Hobbs did hint that the race committee may honor the victims of the Boston Marathon in some fashion, but those details haven’t yet been sorted out.

“I’ve had no requests for cancellation. No phone calls for any information about our security,” she said. “We’re such a small town. Our entries continue to increase every day. I don’t think there has been any ripple effect.”

Hobbs expects the registration for Rina’s Run to break 500 after a down year in 2012. The race increased by 40 percent in each of its first four years, but saw its registration plummet by 100 runners last May.

“I think people are even more resolved to participate and not let something like this keep them from exercising our freedom,” she said.