Thousands of miles from the Boston Marathon bombings, distance runners shared in the sorrow.
To honor the victims and deal with their own emotions, they banded together Tuesday like runners do — by putting on their shoes and going for a jog.
The day after explosions near the finish line of one of the world’s most prestigious races killed at least three people, wounded so many more and shook the thousands who gathered to watch, middle-of-the-pack runners all over the country offered tributes.
The Twitter hashtag “runforboston” turned into a virtual meeting spot for a steady, somber stream of social media users eager to show solidarity with those hurt in the blasts — along with pride in their sport — by pounding the pavement, even for just a few miles.
Some Boston College students used Facebook to plan a walk of the marathon’s last five miles Friday afternoon “to stand united” with runners who didn’t finish, bystanders who were injured and those who lost their lives.
“We will walk to show that we decide when our marathon ends,” the invitation read. As of mid-afternoon on Tuesday, more than 12,000 people clicked on “join” to signal their participation.
Mike Ewoldt, the co-owner of a running equipment store based in Omaha, Neb., had previously organized an informal run for Tuesday evening to test a new shoe brand. He shifted gears to turn the event into a memorial for the victims.
“Everybody looks at Boston as the pinnacle of running. First, you have to qualify and meet a standard to get to Boston. If you qualify, you have two years to run it. It is a one-time shot for a lot of them. They may never get this opportunity again,” Ewoldt said.
Ewoldt, like many in the massive community that is distance running, wanted to show he cared.
No other sport is so available to the public, with a good pair of shoes and a positive attitude all that’s needed to take part. Though the elites from Ethiopia and Kenya compete for big money in the most famous of the marathons, clicking off 5-minute miles, average athletes of all ages, backgrounds and sizes are behind them on the course running the very same race.
Then there are the tens of thousands of family members and friends who pack along the courses to clap for their loved ones and hustle through traffic jams to cheer at the next spot, and the locals who stand outside their houses to shout encouraging words to people they’ve never met.
Hallie Von Rock, a 36-year-old attorney from Alameda, Calif., planned to take time out of her work day to run six miles. She qualified for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:27 but was unable to make this year’s race.
“After this happened, I thought, ‘I’ve got to do it.’ I think it would be good,” Von Rock said. “People train so hard for this, and their family and supporters are there in the stands, and a kid who was waiting for his dad. It’s terrible.”
The See Jane Run store in nearby Oakland, Calif., planned a 3-mile candlelight-and-flashlight vigil for Thursday night. In West Virginia, the Huntington Road Runners organized a 2.6-mile run for the evening, starting at Marshall University.
Ricky Campbell, the secretary of the 150-member club, said candles will be lighted prior to the start. Campbell said he ran the Boston Marathon in 2012 and was supposed to repeat the feat this year but couldn’t make it work.
“In my eyes, I can still see it,” Campbell said. “I’m thanking God that He made me not have plans to be in Boston Monday, to make me stay home. I couldn’t imagine being in that at the moment.”
John Bozung, a 60-year-old runner from Orem, Utah, will extend his streak to 216 consecutive months with a 26.2-mile race by running the Salt Lake City Marathon on Saturday. Bozung wore his blue-and-gold 2012 Boston Marathon shirt and black visor on Tuesday, the same outfit he’s planning to put on Saturday.
More than 1,000 people gathered in Miami on Tuesday night for a tribute run — including a 26.2-second moment of silence, a nod to the 26.2-mile marathon distance. A few people wore Red Sox hats and shirts, and participants held an outstretched U.S. flag while the national anthem blared before the event.
“For me it really close to home,” said Kiley Lapointe, a Massachusetts native who lives in Miami. “Being from Massachusetts, a lot of friends and family were participating at the race and participating every year at the Boston Marathon. It’s just a really scary, horrific tragedy.”
The event drew a larger-than-expected crowd, even though it obviously was planned in a hurry. A married couple from South Miami, Lalo Senior and Marcela Mora-Senior, designed T-shirts for the event that read, “Run for Boston. 4-15-13. Terrorism will never stop us.”
“I’m really sad for what happened in Boston,” Mora-Senior said. “You never know what can happen.”
In Morristown, Tenn., a local running and hiking club turned an already-planned 4-mile run into a Boston tribute. One of the organizers, John Smyth, said he expected to triple the usual turnout to about 75 people.
“There’ll probably be some tears shed and moments of silence. This is devastating,” said Smyth, who wore a T-shirt on Tuesday from a previous race, the Woodstock 5K in Anniston, Ala.
Smyth went on describe the sense of belonging he’s experienced in this sport.
“You’re trying to beat the guy running beside you, but at the same time you’re building camaraderie with everyone there,” Smyth said. “Everyone in the race ahead of you, everyone in the race behind you, you’re all like best friends. Once you cross that finish line, you’re crossing it to share in everyone’s glory.”
On Tuesday, they shared in everyone’s pain.
AP Sports Writers Lynn DeBruin in Salt Lake City, Janie McCauley in San Francisco, Eric Olson in Omaha, Neb., Anne M. Peterson in Portland, Ore., John Raby in Charleston, W.Va., and Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.
Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP