April 16, 2013 at 3:44 PM ET
The day after a tragedy like Monday's bombing of the Boston Marathon often comes with a feeling of helplessness, especially if you're far away. We can donate money or blood to the American Red Cross for future emergencies, but many are unsure of what else to do.
So runners across the country are doing what comes naturally: Run.
Using the hashtag #runforboston, runners are showing their support for the marathoners and spectators who were killed or injured. Many are running 2.62 miles, in honor of the 26.2 that thousands were unable to finish yesterday.
Elizabeth Jarrard, a registered dietitian and native Bostonian, ran 5 miles this morning, including the Boston Marathon's legendary Heartbreak Hill.
"I live a block from the course and it only made sense to follow part of it," Jarrard said in an email. "Heartbreak Hill is such a testament to perseverance during the Boston Marathon."
Runner Jenna Hatfield says she "felt physically unable to refrain from running," who lives in Ohio and ran an emotional 3.10 miles yesterday. "Running has been my go-to place for dealing with the hardships, stresses and anxiety of daily life."
And that's what running means for most in the community, agrees David Hylton, a runner and blogger. Ever since yesterday, he says, "Everybody’s sort of on edge and being tense and not knowing what to do."
Hylton would know, as he keeps a close watch on the online running community. He's a co-founder of the biweekly twitter chat called #runchat, which generates an average of 5,000 tweets per hour at 8 p.m. ET on the second and fourth Sundays of the month. Yesterday Hylton suggested to the online running community that they all wear race T-shirts today or Boston blue and yellow as a show of solidarity to the Boston runners, and runners responded by the thousands.
"This is essentially a day where everybody’s standing together but yet we’re still so spread out, and Twitter essentially is becoming a place where everybody can see everything come together," Hylton says. "It’s essentially like a giant race expo.
Andrew McGlothlen of Peoria, Ill., wore his 2012 Indianapolis Mini shirt to work today. McGlothlen is a marketing coordinator whose office dress code is usually business casual. "About half of my department at work was aware of the movement to wear race shirts by the time I showed up this morning," says McGlothlen, who ran 12 races last year, including six half marathons. He says no one, not even his boss, was surprised to see him sporting his race T-shirt today.
"Distance runners are innately stubborn - they refuse to give up, they keep pushing against boundaries, and they focus on forward motion," he says. Later tonight, he will run for Boston with his girlfriend, and they'll both log their miles on a Google doc created last night by Becca Obergefell, a 26-year-old runner from Columbus, Ohio. Obergefell is encouraging runners to register with Charity Miles, a smartphone app that donates 25 cents per mile to organizations like Feeding America or the ASPCA. But Obergefell also wanted a place to collect the reasons why so many are running for Boston today.
Most responses read something like these: "It seemed like the only support I can give right now." "Because I don't know what else to do." "Solidarity." "For those who can't anymore."
"I created the form as a way for us all to rally around the miles we're running and to share the story behind why we are hitting the pavement," Obergefell says. She's gotten responses from all across the country, plus far away places like the Netherlands and South Africa.
"I ran 2.79 miles last night and will run again after work today. I needed to run," she says. "I needed to run a few miles for those who were so close to finishing their own races."
Check out photos here that runners have shared online: