April 14, 2014
More than 20 Charlottesville runners are packing up their sneakers, preparing to return to the Boston Marathon one year after deadly bombings during the race claimed the lives of three people and injured 264 others.
"The Boston Marathon is the greatest road race in the world," said Harry Landers, who will be tackling the legendary course for the sixth time. "To me, it's the closest thing a regular guy will get to playing in the World Series or the Superbowl."
At 6:30 Sunday morning half a dozen runners met at Barracks Road shopping center for their bi-weekly run. The group called "Boston Bound" has been training for sixteen weeks for the race. Many of the runners like Mike Gaffney are veteran marathoners, heading back to Massachusetts for the very elite race that has thousands of enthusiastic fans.
"The crowds at Boston, they line the whole course, from Hopkinton all the way to Boston," said Gaffney. "It just send chills down your spine to know all of those people are out there cheering every single person on."
Last year, both Gaffney and Landers had finished race shortly before two pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line on Boylston Street. The group spent hours trying to locate all of their fellow Charlottesville runners.
"It was totally surreal and a shock, and it took days for me to realize and accept what had happened," Gaffney said.
For Landers, watching the events unfold in front of him has been seared into his mind.
"We'll always remember what it was like when President Kennedy was killed. We will always remember where we were on 9/11 when the planes flew into the Trade Center, and I'll always remember that Boston Marathon day," Landers said.
Both men said there was no question if they would return to race. Gaffney says running this year is a way to honor the victims and a celebrate the city.
"We're going back for the people of Boston, we are going back for the victims and their families we are going to make this one huge tribute for all of Boston," Gaffney said.
Landers say he has no fear going forward, only focus on crossing the blue and yellow finish line.
"As long as I can qualify, as long as they will let me in I am going to run this forever, nothing will stop me," said Landers.
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