True runners are renowned for the way they push through adversity and pain and just keep going.
And they are a true community, united in their passion for an often lonely athletic pursuit that not everyone understands.
Now that community, locally as well as nationally, has rallied strongly behind the victims of last Monday's bombing attack during the Boston Marathon.
A logo in tribute to the Boston victims that was designed by Omaha runner TJ Ernst has swept the world. Tens of thousands of runners from the United States to Germany, Denmark, Thailand and the Philippines are printing the “Runners United to Remember'' logo onto running bibs, pinning them to their clothes and dedicating their daily runs to the victims.
In addition, a Papillion man designed a commemorative wristband that will be sold in two weeks at the Lincoln Marathon, with all proceeds going to Boston relief efforts.
And running shoe stores in Omaha and Lincoln have quickly put together charity runs in their cities set for today — one week after the tragedy — with all proceeds also going to aid Boston victims.
Three spectators were killed in the bombing and more than 180 people were injured. Most of the injuries were suffered by spectators.
For those who are part of the running community, the response is no surprise at all.
“Even though we don't know someone personally injured at Boston, there is still that connectedness,'' said Chris Hug, a Millard Central Middle School media specialist who pinned on Ernst's Runners United logo for her run the day after the tragedy.
“Whether you run one mile, 10 miles or a marathon, all these people connect because of their love of the sport and all its benefits,” Hug said. “It's like a family.''
And it's a family now resolved to make something good come out of something horrific.
Like most Americans, Ernst was shocked by the images from Boston last Monday and felt compelled to help in some way. He chatted online about it all with some running friends, people with whom he often shares ideas on life, health and fitness.
“Runners are kind of like my support group,'' said Ernst, who works in sales operations for Hewlett-Packard in Omaha. “It's always great to be around those kinds of people.”
It was from those conversations that he came up with the idea for a logo that could be printed on a running bib, and he quickly put one together that evening. The starkly simple design shows “Boston'' imprinted on the city's skyline; “4.15.2013,'' the date of the bombings; and “Runners United to Remember.”
He uploaded the logo to a Facebook page and it quickly went viral. It was embraced by Dan Woods, a Chicago-area man who runs a website for runners called Run Junkees. He put downloadable images of the bib on his site and created a Runners United to Remember Facebook page as a group event. He encouraged runners to download the bib, pin it on and do what they do best to show support for Boston: Go run.
Within 24 hours, the page was flooded with thousands of photos of runners wearing the bibs. By Friday, 69,000 had signed on to run for the Boston victims, from every state and every corner of the world.
Here's an example of picture locations that popped up during just a few hours' time Thursday: Syracuse, N.Y.; Charlotte, N.C.; El Paso, Texas; Australia; Bakersfield, Calif.; Manchester, N.H.; Guam; Wichita, Kan.; Calgary, Canada; and the Philippines.
An entire middle school track team ran its district meet with the bibs. A roller derby team in Canada donned the bibs for its practice. A dozen runners in Bangkok wore them for a run that ended with flowers being placed at the U.S. Embassy. The bib was worn by 100 runners on a group run in Southern California, and by 380 runners on a run in Gulfport, Miss.
“So many smiles from strangers when they saw my bib,'' one woman in New York City posted with her picture.
Another woman posted that she had run 8 miles — one for every year of the life of Boston bombing victim Martin Richard.
The Greater Omaha Area Trail-Runnerz (G.O.A.T.z), a group of Omahans who go on weekly trail runs, picked up the logo and wore it on a Tuesday night run at Omaha's Tranquility Park.
“That logo is all over the place,'' said Brenda Orr, a member of G.O.A.T.z.
The image also appears on the home page of the website for Runner's World magazine, illustrating a story telling readers how they can help Boston victims.
“Just the idea that I've been able to contribute something is very humbling,” Ernst said.
Much like Ernst, Carl Samuelson, 35, of Papillion was chatting the night of the bombing with a fellow runner, Adama Anderson, an Offutt Air Force Base airman, about doing some kind of memorial or tribute to the Boston victims. The next day he learned about 8-year-old Martin, who died while at the Boston finish line.
“That cemented it for me,'' said Samuelson, a web developer.
He quickly came up with the idea of silicone gel bracelets, much like the yellow Livestrong bracelets that raise money for cancer research. He threw together a design, a blue band with yellow letters spelling “For Boston'' and the date of the attack.
He contacted officials with the Lincoln Marathon about selling them at the May 5 event. Samuelson said race co-director Nancy Sutton-Moss got back to him astonishingly fast. She not only embraced the idea but pledged that the marathon would pay the full cost for 10,000 bracelets so that all money raised from sales can go to Boston victims.
A Columbus company that makes such bands, CAS Enterprises, is also aiding the bid, moving the order to the front of the line so the bracelets will be ready in time.
The bracelets will be sold for $1 each — with donations for more accepted — at the exposition the day before the marathon. All proceeds will go to the One Fund Boston, set up by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to aid bombing victims.
One Fund Boston will also benefit from the charity runs today in Omaha and Lincoln.
A national association representing independent running shoe and apparel stores encouraged members around the country to stage informal fundraising runs today. Stores in Omaha and Lincoln have responded.
Runners are expected to flock to the events, in support of the Boston victims as well as to show Americans' resolve in the face of attacks.
“It's going to be huge,'' said Ann Ringlein, manager of the Lincoln Running Co. “Runners are not easily discouraged. It's going to take a whole lot to keep them from showing up.''
She and other runners say the same will be true of the 2014 Boston Marathon. Samuelson, the wristband designer, is running the Lincoln Marathon with designs on meeting the qualifying standard for 2014 Boston. With the events of the past week, he feels more compelled than ever to be there.
“It's going to be somber, but it's also going to be celebratory,'' he said. “You can't keep us down.''
Contact the writer: 402-444-1130, firstname.lastname@example.org