They ran for family and friends who live in Massachusetts. They ran to show that the good acts of many can outweigh the evil acts of two. But most of all, they ran because that’s what they wanted – and needed – to do.
Hundreds of runners, walkers, spectators and volunteers – including some who also took part in last week’s Boston Marathon – came out on a sunny Sunday morning in Delaware Park for a run held to offer support to the City of Boston and the running community, and to raise charitable funds.
“Runners stick together,” said Sydney Mulkey, 16, a Lancaster resident who used to run on her school’s cross country team. She and her friend Allison Rusinski, 14, of Cheektowaga, planned to run Sunday “pretty much until we pass out.”
The event was held six days after two bombs shattered the Boston event, killing three and injuring dozens more. Similar runs were held Sunday in New York City and across the country.
The Buffalo run’s organizers and participants say they wanted to show their determination not to let the bombers stop them from doing what they love.
More than 1,100 people had signed up on the Facebook page for the Boston Marathon Solidarity Run, which was put together by Elizabeth Weinberg and Julia Burke.
“The response was overwhelming,” Weinberg said.
Weinberg was out for a run on the afternoon of April 15 when she found out about the marathon bombing. She stopped and sent a message to Burke, who had honored Hurricane Sandy victims last November with a Delaware Park run after the New York City Marathon was canceled.
Burke agreed to help organize the solidarity run, and Weinberg set up the Facebook page for the event.
“People wanted to be out. Not only to raise money – because that’s very important – but also to see other runners,” Burke said after her run.
Sunday morning, runners gathered under bright blue skies near the snack stand at the corner of Nottingham Terrace and Meadow Road. A bagpiper and a recording of the national anthem marked the beginning of the run shortly after 9 a.m.
Some runners carried American flags or wore “RunforBoston” T-shirts, and about 10 wore the jackets they purchased at this year’s Boston Marathon.
Carol Flaherty, an attorney from East Aurora, was on the marathon course in Boston and was about 0.4 miles from the finish line when she and other runners were stopped by police because of the bombing.
After an hour, they were allowed to go collect their belongings. Flaherty saw some of the devastation of the attack, and the memory remains painful.
She said she came out for the solidarity run “to come together. To share my story. To be with friends, the running community.”
Flaherty was running the marathon to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and she plans to return next year to finish the race. “We are going to run again,” she said.
Patti Lawley, of Eggertsville, finished the Boston Marathon about five minutes before the first bomb went off. She was still in her running clothes when she boarded a plane that evening to return to Buffalo.
“We just wanted to give back, and come, and make contributions to the fund,” Lawley said Sunday in the park, referring to the charities that benefitted.
Other participants – including Nikki Tolias, daughters Jessica and Audrey Pilotte and Nikki’s husband, Charles Tolias, all of Amherst – had a personal connection to Boston.
Charles is from the Boston suburb of Norwood, two of his cousins are firefighters there, and one of them ran the marathon.
“We wanted to come out for support,” said Nikki, who wore a camouflage Boston Red Sox cap.
“It’s depressing,” Audrey, 12, said of the attack and its aftermath.
“At least they found them,” added Jessica, who is 10.
Others came out to help a good cause, and were glad to see so many do the same.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, or whether you were personally affected,” said Kami Callahan, who came from the Town of Boston with her son Liam, 15, who runs track at Hamburg High School.
There was no set distance for the run, and there was no registration fee, but people were invited to make a donation to the Red Cross. Supporters gave a total of $10,914 to the Red Cross.
Ingram Micro donated water for the runners.
You And Who, a company that makes designer T-shirts, sold “RunforBoston” shirts for $20, with $10 going to The One Fund Boston.
President Dan Gigante said the company sold more than 400 shirts as of Sunday afternoon, generating more than $4,000 for the fund – a figure that JetBlue has pledged to match.
One person who wanted to take part in Sunday’s run, but couldn’t, was Lisa Laski, a Town of Tonawanda resident who was injured in the bombings as she waited for her niece to complete the Boston Marathon.
Laski, who was in St. Catharines, Ont., Sunday morning for her daughter’s hockey tournament, said she and her sister-in-law were about 20 feet from the spot where the first bomb exploded.
The blast knocked Laski to the ground, left her ears ringing, perforated her right ear drum and bruised and burned her left leg.
“What we saw was unimaginable,” Laski said in a phone interview, comparing the violence to the opening sequence in “Saving Private Ryan.” “It was utter chaos. We could not believe what just happened.”
Laski’s sister-in-law, who didn’t want to be named, pulled Laski away before she was taken by ambulance to Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Police interviewed her there and took her clothes and purse as evidence in the bombing investigation.
Laski returned to Buffalo on Tuesday, but she can’t help thinking about her close call.
“Today’s the first day I haven’t obsessed about it,” she said Sunday.