The race, which started and finished at a high school in Columbia, aimed to benefit and honor Nicole and Michael Gross and Erika Brannock, three Howard County locals who were injured at the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15. According to the Howard County Striders, Nicole suffered two breaks in her left leg, a nearly severed right Achilles tendon, and some hearing loss.; her husband, Michael, suffered burns; and her sister, Erika lost her left leg above the knee. They had traveled to Boston to cheer on their mom.
I’m not in anything that remotely resembles racing mode right now. Running has felt good lately, but I can feel that I’m still pretty slow in the big scheme of things, so I haven’t felt the need to test myself by examining my pace too closely. But I figured that this race, which benefited the family via the Be Strong Stay Strong fund, would be all about healing and community and celebrating the ability to run on two strong, healthy legs. So on Sunday, I met two other runner-friends in Columbia to take part in the tribute.
It was one of those awesome, low-key races in which you arrive 30 minutes before the start, hand over your registration fee to a volunteer, then head to the starting line with a couple hundred other runners. There were no T-shirts at the start, and no bananas and bagels at the finish—decisions that aimed to cut down on overhead and direct more funding toward the family.
The race was 4.09 miles—the distance echoed the time of the blast, at 4 hours and nine minutes into the marathon—and consisted of two loops around the high school. The morning was hot, making the rolling hills on the course feel long and steep, but the friendly, grateful vibe that permeated the event helped the miles fly by.
Without mile markers or my Garmin (which I haven’t worn in months), I had no idea what to expect from my time. I was pleased to find that my medium-hard pace ended up being around 9-minute miles. And actually, since the race was 4.09 miles, my time of 36:43 actually works out to be 8:58-minute mile pace: sub-9 (technicality, schmecticality!)!
But the real victory came when the victims’ family members crossed the finish line holding hands. It felt like a victory for all of us—over chaos and over grief, and over whatever minor and major challenges we faced in our own lives.