ELMHURST – About 250 participants gathered at Elmhurst’s The Runner’s Soul Monday evening for the “Runners for Boston” solidarity run.
“We never thought we could put something together this quick and get such a great response,” said Jayne Aspan, owner of The Runner’s Soul, to the crowd that included everyone from runners and walkers to children in strollers and dogs.
In response to the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, the Independent Running Retailers Association organized solidarity runs of 2.62 miles (one-tenth of a marathon) at running specialty stores across the country.
Aspan collaborated with Marathon Sportswear to get shirts ordered and printed in less than a week, while Fitz’s Spare Keys in Elmhurst offered $1.17 beers following the race because this was the Boston Marathon’s 117th year.
Participation was free, but between $20 T-shirts and donations, the run raised about $8,000. All money raised will be donated to One Fund Boston, Inc., which is dedicated to helping people most affected by the recent terrorist acts in Boston.
“I believe that any time there is suffering or tragedy that there is always opportunity that comes out of that,” said the Rev. Matthew Pechanio of Church of Ascension before praying at the starting line. “And this is an example of making the most of an opportunity.”
Participants echoed this idea, thanking The Runner’s Soul for putting on the race.
“[Running in the Boston Marathon] is the biggest accomplishment you can get,” said Mary Kate Dunne, a York High School cross-country alumna. “So to get there and have something like that happen is unthinkable.”
Kelsey Ghilarducci, an Elmhurst native, doesn’t consider herself an experienced runner but wanted to show her support.
“I heard about it through Facebook and saw that there was one in Elmhurst,” Ghilarducci said of the race.
Lifelong runner Rich Zappen, 57, of Bensenville ran in the Boston Marathon for the third time this year. It was his 56th marathon. Passing the finish line 20 minutes before the initial blast, Zappen was still only a few hundred yards away when he first heard the explosion and turned around to see a cloud of smoke.
“It was scary when the noise went off,” said the Elmhurst Running Club member. “You could tell something was wrong.”
Zappen’s wife, Nancy, and daughter, Katie, both were safe and joined him for the solidarity run, carrying signs that read “Racer Walkers,” a gesture Katie credited to her father.
“He cares about everyone and every type of runner. Whether you’re a beginner or you’re a pro,” Katie said.
Retired and restless, Rich Zappen began working at The Runner’s Soul almost two months ago.
“My passion is running and helping people,” he said.
Aspan said that’s a philosophy shared among all runners. She credits the closeness of the running community for the solidarity run’s success.
“Runners are good-spirited, happy people anyway,” said Aspan, “and I just feel like we’re even more connected now.”