, Salem, MA

April 26, 2013

On The Run column: Sticking together in a time of crisis

By Jay Kumar

---- — What a difference a few weeks can make.

Two weeks ago, local runners were gearing up for the Boston Marathon, ready to put months of training to good use. Scores of volunteers and support personnel were also looking forward to a busy Marathon Monday.

Of course, we all know what happened that day. But to me, what happened before and after the bombings says a lot about the tight-knit running community we’ve got on the North Shore.

It’s worth noting that Marathon Monday started off great. I headed to Wellesley with a group of fellow North Shore Striders to volunteer at the mile 12 water stop of the Boston Marathon. The day was beautiful, both for spectators and runners, with temps in the 50s and a mix of sun and clouds. I’d been on the other end of things, having run the race three times before and having watched it as a spectator, but this was a whole new vantage point.

We got to mile 12 at 8 a.m. and set up our tables with Gatorade and water. I was at one of the last water tables on the left as runners made their way toward the halfway point.

We had fun with it, having a little competition with the table next to us to see who could hand out the most cups of water. We saw the wheelchair racers come through first, followed by the elite women and then a pack of elite men, who started at 10 a.m.. Things got really busy around 11:30, when a steady stream of runners started coming through. We were very busy for the next 90 minutes, handing out cups. I started doing a carnival barker impression, yelling out water and cheering on runners who put their names or countries on their shirts. Most folks appreciated the shout-outs, and many runners thanked us for being out there.

After 1 p.m., most runners had gone through and we started to clean up the thousands of cups strewn on the ground. It went quickly and we were done by 1:30 as the last runners made their way toward Boston. It was a tremendously rewarding day and I left feeling pretty great about life and how to live it.

I got back to Beverly a little after 2:30 and was listening to sports talk radio as I drove to my house when I heard that there were explosions at the finish line of the marathon. The rest of the day and night was spent watching TV coverage of the horrific events that followed. As well as answering the barrage of phone calls, emails, texts and other messages from friends and relatives who figured I was either running or watching the race and checking to see that I was OK.

As I’m sure it has for many, running has proven therapeutic in the days following the incident. It’s been a good way to clear my head and especially last week, to escape from the non-stop coverage of the bombing and its aftermath. We had tickets to the Red Sox game last Friday that was postponed until Sunday night, and it was especially poignant (and disturbing) to walk around the cordoned-off finish line area and see the many memorials (as well as news vans from all over the country).

It’s been heartening to see how the entire region has united in the wake of the bombings, raising millions to help the victims and their families. The running community has especially felt the impact of the incident, with runners and Boston Marathon volunteers wearing their yellow and blue marathon gear in honor of the victims. The Run to Remember Half Marathon, which takes place on May 25 in Boston and honors local law enforcement officers, has seen a huge spike in registrations since the events of last week. And the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, scheduled for May 26, just announced that it was making 150 of its remaining numbers available to Boston Marathon participants.

Earlier this week, about 200 runners gathered at New England Running Co. in Beverly for an impromptu 3-mile run to honor Stephen Woolfenden of Salem and his son Leo, who were injured at the Boston Marathon finish line. The event started with a simple post on New England Running Co.’s Facebook page, but it quickly caught on with local runners who wanted to do something for the family and provide donations to the Woolfenden Family Fund. There were many runners from the Wicked Running Club, of which Stephen’s wife Amber is a member, as well as folks who didn’t even know the family. The runners showed up, some with their children, on a chilly Monday night and made their way along Route 1A into Wenham and back.

It was a simple but meaningful gesture, and it illustrated how the running community, and the North Shore in general, responds in a crisis.

We keep running, and we run together.


On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments, or news to

Upcoming races

Saturday: Second Annual Run for Ricey 5K, Brown Elementary School, 150 Lynn St., Peabody, 8:30 a.m. New for 2013: Firefighter division. Chip-timed 5K also includes a 1-mile walk. Contact: Lisa O Connell (James Rice Memorial Fund) at 1-978-532-2645 or email

Sunday: 17th Annual North Shore Wellness Fair 5K, Salem State University O Keefe Center, 352 Lafayette St., Salem. Flat and fast USATF-certified course, chip-timed, awards for SSU affiliates. Contact: Joseph Dunn (Salem State University Wellness Center) at 1-978-542-6537 or email

Lynn YMCA 5k Road Race, Tides Restaurant, 2 Wilson Road, Nahant, 12 p.m. Flat, fast course with post race celebration at Tides Restaurant. Contact: Sharon Dobbyn (Lynn YMCA) at 1-781-581-3105 x244 or

Wednesday, May 1: Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail

Thursday, May 2: No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact

Friday, May 3: Happy as a Clam 5K Road Race, Essex Elementary School, 12 Story St., Essex, 6 p.m. Includes a 1-mile family fun run and walk, wellness fair and carnival. Contact: Jen Tolo (Essex Elementary PTO) at 1-978-290-1983 or

Saturday, May 4: 2nd Annual Fast Chicks 5K, Patton Park, 340 Bay Road, Hamilton, 9:15 a.m. Women-only run/walk, includes kids’ 100-yard dash, prizes. Contact: HWMC Fast Chicks at

Sunday, May 5: 5 Mile Run for HAWC, Salem Common, 18 Washington Square West, Salem, 11:15 a.m. Second annual run with 21st annual walk. Fast/Flat, awards, shirts, great post race. Contact: Ashley Steeves (BNS EVENT MANAGEMENT) at 1-978-836-0271 or

Twin Lights Half Marathon, Good Harbor Beach, Thatcher Road, Gloucester, 9 a.m. Entry fee includes a technical t-shirt, food, free unlimited race photo downloads. Contact: Stephanie Murray (Pursuit Racing) at

Wednesday, May 8: Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail

Thursday, May 9: No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact

Visit for more race listings.