Nadine Echeverry of Lakewood jogged up and down Signal Hill’s steep streets, considered by athletes a local “training ground,” in preparation for this year’s Boston Marathon. But what she didn’t prepare for was the mayhem and horror that ensued.
Echeverry was one of about 20 runners from the Long Beach-based A Running Experience Club (AREC) who participated in the 26.2-mile race on Monday, April 15. Instead of feeling emotions of joy and victory, however, she was beset with sadness and shock after two bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring 170 others.
“Really, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Echeverry said in a phone interview after returning from Boston. “It’s just really hard to get your head around something like that… We were sad, shook up [with] all those emotions you have to go through, but now I’m kind of angry, like ‘how dare you.’”
She said all runners and their family members from the Long Beach area who attended the race are safe and accounted for and none were injured. Those who participated in the race included Doug Freeman, who lost his medal in the turmoil, and Karen Hester, a longtime Long Beach employee who works for the city attorney’s office, among others.
On Wednesday, more than 200 AREC members joined together to show sympathy and support for the victims of the Boston tragedy. They started their weekly run at 6:30pm from Buster’s Beach House in the Alamitos Bay Marina with a moment of silence before taking off wearing commemorative “race bibs” as part of a national event to unite runners in support of those who took part in the marathon.
To participate in the “virtual” run, which has no set time or place, each participant puts on the bib and runs anytime until May 4 in spirit with those who ran during the marathon.
AREC is also organizing an upcoming event to allow marathoners who were diverted from the finish line to run the “last mile” as a group, said AREC President Dave Kuntz. There hasn’t yet been a date set for the event, but anyone from the local community will be allowed to join, he said.
In an email message sent out to AREC’s more than 500 members this week, Kuntz said he was informed through emails and Facebook that all of the club’s members were accounted for and safe. After feeling “shock, anger, disbelief, dismay, concern, compassion and grief,” local residents felt “relief and thankfulness that those we know and love are safe” and a “deep sense of loss for the victims and their families,” he said.
Kuntz called on residents to show “solidarity” with the rest of the running community that is still coping with the tragedy. “If ever there was a time to send out the ‘runner love’ to those who will have lasting scars and lasting memories of this year’s Boston Marathon, now is the time,” he said.
Bob Seagren, an Olympic gold medalist and president of Run Racing, which organizes the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon to be held this October, said the organization will likely work with Long Beach city officials to increase security at the upcoming marathon that draws about 25,000 participants and is now entering its 29th year.
“I think everybody’s going to be on heightened alert, and we’ll certainly put different security measures into effect,” he said. “I’m sure the City is going to make certain demands on us in October, and we’ll have to deal with it. But public safety has got to be number one.”
Seagren, who participated in pole vault in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich when 11 Israeli team members were held hostage and eventually killed, said the Boston bombing incident, which has been called “an act of terror” by President Barack Obama, will likely change security measures for “high profile,” televised sporting events.
“It’s just a sad scenario,” he said. “It’s the world we live in today, and we’re going to always have to be on our toes, I guess… High-profile events are going to be the key targets and those that are nationally televised, because they want national exposure and impact. Those are the types of events that I would be very cautious of for a while.”
This week, law-enforcement agencies in Los Angeles and Orange counties stated that they would increase security measures at area events, including the three-day Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which officially starts today.
Both Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster and Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell said during a press conference on Wednesday that the City’s “multifaceted security” would be increased during the Indy Car race that draws some 175,000 spectators.
Foster said the City and local law-enforcement agencies continue to monitor developments of the ongoing investigation into the Boston explosions. He added, however, that in Long Beach there are “neither specific nor credible threats to this week’s activities.”