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Saturday’s race brought a sense of community and solidarity to Roanoke.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Saturday’s fourth annual Blue Ridge Marathon brought back the mountain climbs that have given the race the nickname “America’s toughest road marathon.”
It also brought a beefed-up police presence, and blue and yellow clothing on many of the almost 1,700 runners downtown.
And it brought a sense of community and solidarity to Roanoke.
Like many of the runners and spectators, Joe Cutrufo sported a Boston Red Sox hat and a Boston Marathon shirt.
Cutrufo ran the half-marathon while his wife, Shannon Moriarty, ran the full marathon. He was glad that, at the last minute, his wife had chosen to run in Saturday’s marathon in Roanoke instead of the previous Monday’s Boston Marathon as she had originally planned.
The couple are from Boston and currently live in Manhattan, N.Y. Many of their friends were in Boston when the bombing occurred.
“We were just frantically texting and calling our friends,” Cutrufo said.
The couple followed Friday’s capture of the second suspect in the bombing as they drove from New York to Virginia. “Then, right when we pulled in to our hotel, they got him,” Cutrufo said.
Cutrufo said he was struck by what happened after police arrested the suspect in Watertown, Mass.
“Everyone went out of their houses and lined the streets and cheered and celebrated,” Cutrufo said, “and I thought, that’s what the end of a marathon should look like.”
When Cutrufo and Moriarty took on the half- and full marathons Saturday morning, they weren’t the only ones in the crowd wearing blue and yellow, Boston’s city colors. People wore Red Sox gear, bracelets, stickers and custom-made T-shirts, all supportive of the city.
“I see so many people with blue bracelets that say Running for Boston,” Cutrufo said. “I’m really touched by it. It’s really nice to see the outpouring of support for my city.”
Organizers hung a Boston city flag under the starting arch. As participants ran under the arch, many reached up and touched the flag.
Twins Kelli and Nicole Nahoolewa and their friend Leah Huber , all 20 years old and teammates on Southern Virginia University’s cross country team, ran the half-marathon together as a final project for a physical education class.
Nicole Nahoolewa said she was shocked when she heard about Monday’s bombings. “I felt sorry for the runners,” she said. “They’re there to have a good time, and for that to happen is terrible.”
Pat Leonard, also in blue and yellow, was waiting for family members Amy and Emir Dedic to finish the marathon.
Leonard said she thought the bombing had been “bad for runners, bad for sports, and bad for America.” But, she said, “I think it’s great that people are wearing blue and yellow and supporting Boston .”
Tough climb for all ages
From experienced runners to first-timers, many said they enjoyed the course but found it difficult.
Cutrufo said although it was his seventh half-marathon, it was the most challenging course he has run. “I knew to expect a difficult uphill, but I didn’t expect the downhill,” he said. “This one really stands out.”
“It’s the toughest half-[marathon] I’ve run,” said H.T. Page, 53, of Franklin County.
Younger children could participate in the one-mile YMCA Kids Run, but some older kids participated in the half-marathon, such as Adren Jacobs , 11, of Glenvar. He ran the half-marathon with his mom, Stephanie Jacobs, while his dad, David Jacobs, ran the full marathon.
Adren finished 10 minutes ahead of his mom. “The course is tough, but it’s awesome,” he said.
Adren said he had Monday’s bombings on his mind during the past week, especially because his dad ran the Boston Marathon last year. But he and his mom appreciated the increase in police and security around the Blue Ridge route.
“It makes me feel safer,” Adren said, to see more police officers.
“And when he takes off and leaves me,” Stephanie Jacobs added, “I feel safer knowing there’s officers along the route.”
Keeping everyone safe
An increased police presence was part of the Blue Ridge Marathon’s response to the bombing at the Boston Marathon.
More than 100 uniformed and plain clothes officers from at least 14 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies checked the race route thoroughly beforehand and patrolled it while runners were on the course.
Roanoke Deputy Police Chief Tim Jones said the security plan was re-evaluated as soon as word got out about Monday’s bombing.
Jones said that in the past, between 20 and 25 officers had staffed the marathon. This year, in the interest of security, officers altered their schedules and took overtime to pitch in. Neighboring departments also offered help.
“Everyone understood the urgency of the matter and folks were willing to help out,” he said.
Jones said the city reduced the number of potential hazards along the course. Mailboxes were locked and metal trash cans were removed from the street, because both could be places to hide explosives, he said.
Uniformed officers conducted bag checks at the entrance to the finish line area, and people were encouraged before the race not to bring bags.
Jones said many runners came up to him to thank him for having an increased police presence at the marathon. And he said he appreciated seeing so many runners supporting people in Boston with their clothing and attitudes.
“The enthusiasm and solidarity has been tremendous,” he said. “We all had to come together to make this day a success, and it was that.”