Boston tragedy doesn't deter distance runners
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vicki Schmidt continues to suffer flashbacks of the bombs going off at the Boston Marathon. Her boyfriend, there cheering her on, has a hole in his eardrum and hearing loss in both ears.
The bombings occurred before Schmidt could finish the race, and the physical and mental wounds have made her more determined to run the half-marathon portion of Saturday's Country Music Marathon -- which promises to be an emotional event.
It is the largest combined marathon and half-marathon to be held in the United States since the April 15 bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260.
"I'm not going to let what's happened taint my love for running," said Schmidt, a 51-year-old paralegal from Nashville. "I tend to think there's a lot more good than evil in this world, and I can't be scared to walk out my door."
The Nashville paralegal isn't alone.
Competitor Inc., the group that runs the Country Music Marathon, estimates 30,000 people will enter the marathon, half marathon and mini marathon events at Nashville this weekend. Executive vice president Tracy Sundlun said about the same number of people participated in last year's event.
Vance Poss of Franklin had finished the Boston Marathon about an hour before the bombings. He was lying in his hotel room about three blocks from the finish line when he saw the news reports on television. He never had any second thoughts about running in Nashville this weekend.
"We're not going to stop living the way we live just because of a few people who want to disrupt our fun," Poss said.
Lynn Burnett of Livingston had fought through a hamstring injury to complete the Boston Marathon and was only about 500 feet beyond the finish line when the explosions hit. He plans to work as a pace leader Saturday in the half-marathon event.
Poss, 47, and Burnett, 56, have each participated in dozens of marathons. Running is such a big part of Poss' life that he actually got married at the finish line of the 2010 Country Music Marathon. Yet in the wake of the Boston tragedy, they say Saturday's event will stand out from the rest.
"I think it will be more emotional, especially at the start before we actually start running and moving," Burnett said. "It's going to be a little different outlook on things for sure."
Organizers said 1,767 people signed up for their event from April 15 until online registration closed Sunday. That represented a 54 percent increase from the previous week, when 1,148 people registered. Sundlun said the biggest surge in registrations came in the three days after the Boston Marathon bombings.
"Is the running community intimidated by what took place in Boston? Absolutely not," Sundlun said. "If anything, they're saying, `No, no, no. Not on my turf. ... You're not messing with me. I'm going to go run.' "
Robbie Bruce of Nashville was just as determined.
He regularly trains distance runners and has competed in dozens of triathlons, but he had never signed up to participate in a full marathon before. The same day the bombings occurred, Bruce registered for the Country Music Marathon as a show of support.
"My first thought is I wanted to do something that showed regardless of if you want to put fear in people's eyes or make them want to act a certain way, you're not going to succeed," Bruce said. "What better way than to sign up for a race that I never had intended to run?"
Organizers also have beefed up security for Saturday's race.
Security will control entry and exit into each of the 32 runner corrals at the starting lineup. All participants, spectators and volunteers may be subject to random bag checks. Anyone with access to restricted areas must produce a photo ID.
The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that all mailboxes along the route of the St. Jude Country Music Marathon will be blocked this weekend out of an abundance of caution. Over 100,000 wristbands with the message "Run Now -- Boston 4.15.2013" are being distributed to participants and spectators.
"I'll be a lot more vigilant," Poss said. "If I see anything that doesn't look right, I'll either pursue it myself or say something to someone immediately because you just can't take these things for granted anymore."
AP News Writer Sheila Burke of Nashville contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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