INDIANAPOLIS — Bundled up against the cold and with tears in their eyes, dozens of runners unable to complete the Boston Marathon due to the bombings last month finally finished their runs over the famed yard of bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.
The runners were honored at the Indianapolis 500 by having the opportunity to run down the front stretch moments before to the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Thousands of people, including some crew members of the race teams, cheered them on as they ran down pit road.
Jennifer Black, a 61-year-old from Loveland, Ohio, said she ran to the finish line with tears in her eyes after she saw her husband waving to her from the track’s fourth turn.
“I was crying while I was running and blowing kisses to the crowd,” she said.
The group crossed the finish line flanked by firefighters and police officers, breaking the tape less than 10 minutes before the command was given to start the engines.
“It was incredible. I have never run through a crowd like this,” said Amber Larason of Nashville, Tenn., who was running the Boston Marathon with her mom and about two miles from the finish line on Boylston Street when the bombs exploded on April 15.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Larason said. “It was amazing.”
All the runners who participated Sunday were pulled off the Boston Marathon course by officials after the bombings, which killed three people and wounded more than 250. Speedway officials extended an invitation to finish to the Boston Athletic Association, which contacted runners from Indiana and nearby states.
“The tragedy last month in Boston still resonates with everyone, so we wanted to give runners the chance to finish the race in front of thousands of fans who will appreciate their persistence and determination,” said Doug Boles, the speedway’s chief operating officer.
Black was wearing her Boston numerical marker with the number “21015” pinned to the top of her running jersey. She was about a half-mile from the finish when the bombs went off at the marathon, and remembers thinking medics were rushing to aid a runner who suffered a heart attack. When she learned it was a bomb, Black said she feared that her sister, former Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, might have been injured. Schmidt was waiting near the finish line, uninjured.
On Sunday, Schmidt waited again for her sister as she crossed the finish line, this time at the speedway. Schmidt urged people to donate to a fund established for victims of the bombing – onefundboston.org.
“These people need our help. There will be no government help like there will be for the people in Moore, Okla.,” she said. “There will be no government aid to these people. These people have an economic loss as well as limbs lost – life lost, lives permanently damaged.”
Ron Kuczma, a 65-year-old from Hudson, Ohio, said it was thrilling to be able to take part in a ceremonial finish at the speedway, where several fans waved American flags.
But Kuczma said he couldn’t help thinking about the families of the bombing victims and the runners who are still recovering.
“We’re here having a lot of fun today. We were treated like dignitaries,” he said, “but there were a lot of people who were hurt in the bombings. And people died. We ran for them today. They couldn’t be here and we could so we ran for them.”
Paul Ryan of Marlborough, Mass., brought his father and sons to the race from the Boston area, and was unaware that the speedway was honoring victims of the bombing.
“I think it’s great that they were bringing people out here to honor and still to keep it going because people forget stuff so fast these days. It’s great that they were acknowledged out here,” he said. “There’s a lot of awful things going on right now that it’s easy to lose focus.
“We just appreciate it, being from Boston, that other people notice it.”