Editor’s note: Reporter Eric Vo ran with runners participating in One Run For Boston on Saturday and filed this story.
NORTHFORD — With a torch in her left hand, Laura Tiech led a group of 22 runners up Route 17 towards Liberty Bank, where another group was waiting. They cheered, clapped and took photos as the group approached Saturday afternoon. Hugs were given all around, as Tiech handed off the torch and the American Flag.
We were running stage 319 of the One Run For Boston, a 3,328.2-mile cross-country relay run organized by three British people: Kate Treleaven, Danny Bent and Jamie Hay. They created the event following the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Treleaven said.
Last year, two bombs exploded on Boylston Street, killing three people and injuring an estimated 264 others. The suspects led police on a manhunt that lasted more than four days. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is awaiting trial.
Treleaven said the bombings surprised them because it was an “event that was joyful with an innocent community.”
Funds raised are donated to the One Fund. Last year’s relay raised $91,000. As of Saturday, Treleaven said this year’s relay raised more than $400,000.
“In a sense, we had a better realization,” Treleaven said, “that there’s more good people in the world than bad.”
Stage 319 was a 9.5-mile run from Northford to Durham. The starting point was at a Rite Aid, at 1395 Middletown Ave., Northford, and the exchange point to stage 320 was at the Liberty Bank, 357 Main St., Durham.
Tiech, a Wallingford resident, and a large number of the other runners participated in last year’s relay.
“It was one of the most amazing running experiences of my life,” Tiech said after finishing the run. “I’ve done a lot of group runs with friends and family, but this was unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It was very emotional and I’m very happy to be part of a big event.”
Jenni French, a Wallingford resident, said the event shows how people unite together for a cause.
“If we had another Hurricane Katrina, we’d have a One Run For Katrina victims,” French said.
Tiech, the leader of the group, had participants meet in the parking lot two hours before the run. With Tiech was Stephanie Turbett and Erin Maghery, both Wallingford residents. The three took turns decorating Tiech’s car — drawing the One Run For Boston Logo on the rear window.
There were 22 people officially signed up to participate in stage 319. Runners from stage 318 were scheduled to pass the torch and flag to us by 12:25 p.m. As time got closer, the runners began to appear in the parking lot.
And eventually, a blue Toyota SUV drove towards the group, with black markings all over it. A large decal on the side of the car read, “One Run For Boston.” It was Bent, Treleaven and Hay, and once the runners realized that, they cheered and screamed.
Bent and Treleaven got out of the car and hugs were given all around. The black markings on the car were signatures from all the runners in the previous stages.
Treleaven walked up to me and shook my hand, introducing herself. She saw my notebook in my hand and told me I was the first journalist to run with a group for one of the stages.
“Well we don’t usually let them. We don’t very much like them,” Bent said as he laughed and proceeded to give me a hug.
Before we knew it, runners from stage 318 were making their way up one final hill. Once they reached Tiech, the leaders from both groups hugged. With torch in hand and with the flag with our group, we were off.
All the runners knew the 9.5-miles would be tough because of hills.
These weren’t small, steep hills, but long stretches of asphalt that gradually got steeper. Put simply, the entire 9.5-mile course consisted of rolling hills.
“It was a good experience, even with all the hills,” Shelton resident Yvonne Benjamin said after the run.
“Yeah, I’d do it again,” Tiech said in response.
As tough as the run was, it was scenic. We ran past Northford Park, where families were out enjoying the sunny, 70-degree weather; large farms with horses and old barns and fields of grass and trees.
The group eventually spread out as the run went on. I spent time running with people in different parts of the run, especially those that were alone. After three miles in, I ran with Turbett, who said she was glad to participate in this year’s run and that her injury wasn’t bothering her.
I also ran with Benjamin, who was in California last year when the bombs went off in Boston.
“It was scary because we knew so many people running in the marathon,” she said in between breaths. “Everyone was safe, but we wanted to do something. When I found out about this, it was a no-brainer.”
We stopped at two points in the run to wait for the rest of the group to catch up, which showed how much the running community bonds together.
While there were runners spread out along the route, at no point did the front runners ever think to finish without everyone else.
Not every runner knew each other, yet each and every one of them made an effort to support one another.
It wasn’t just us runners that were running to support the victims of the bombings, everyone from Northford to Durham were just as supportive. For an hour-and-a-half, as we ran 9.5 miles, drivers honked and cheered us on.
In Durham, a group of firefighters shook cowbells and painted four different signs that said “One Run For Boston,” with one word on each sign.
Once we finished stage 319, the runners hugged one another and took pictures. As stage 320 took off for their run, the group recovered by having a cold beer.
The group met at Time Out Taverne in Durham, where they ate lunch and had drinks. They talked about the run, future races and how each and every one of them wanted to run the relay again next year.
“Cheers! Raise your glasses everyone,” French said. “Good job!”
“And cheers to our drivers,” said Kathy Emory, a Cheshire resident.
Although most of the group were veterans to the One Run For Boston, it was Jody Gratton’s first time participating. I asked Gratton, a Wallingford resident, why she decided to join.
“Because of her,” she said as she pointed to Tiech. “She’s my best friend and an inspiration.”
Reflecting back on her day, Tiech said the run went well and was looking forward to doing it again next year. Some of the runners, such as Tiech and Turbett, will drive to Boston today to participate in the final stage of the One Run For Boston — a group run with hundreds of participants.