, Port Arthur, Texas

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April 16, 2013

Runners honor Boston victims with memorial miles

PORT NECHES — As the nation reels from deadly explosions at the Boston Marathon Monday, runners across Southeast Texas are taking a knee, tying their shoes and honoring those lives lost by doing what they love — pounding the pavement.

A light mist filled the air as more than 40 people (plus one pooch named Casey) ran silent miles to remember those harmed in Monday’s attacks.

Organizer Amber Oleksy, who qualified for the 2014 Boston Marathon last weekend in Dallas, was shocked when she heard about the bombing. The aftermath left three dead including an 8-year-old boy and more than 170 injured.

“I felt so bad for the people, they worked so hard to get there,” Oleksy said. “Friends and family are there supporting them and someone went and ruined it.”

The more she thought about the situation, the feeling that there was something she could do grew. Deciding to organize a silent run/walk to honor lost lives, the injured and those affected by the bombs seemed right, Oleksy said.

“I felt for the people — there is only so much you can do when you’re so far away,” Oleksy said. So she took to Facebook and began organizing the event.

Chris Hopper, pastor at Fellowship Baptist Church in Nederland, said a prayer before the run began.

“It’s so important to pray for the families and stay together even though we don’t know the answers,” Hopper said. “It’s about unity, unity, unity.”

Sarah Zarate, a member of the Sea Rim Striders, a longtime Southeast Texas running club which hosts the  Turkey Trot in Beaumont on Thanksgiving Day and the Summer Run Series, was also in dismay over the bloodshed.

“It was very shocking — runners are such a supportive group of people,” Zarate said, adding how it is hard to fathom how anyone would want to harm such positive people.

It is that attitude that shows the close-knit nature of runners in Southeast Texas. When asked how this incident may affect her own running, Zarate was quick to say that if anything, it has encouraged her to run even more.

“Things are going to happen anywhere,” she said. “Last night the first thing I wanted to do was be with my running friends.”

And many other runners felt the same sentiment, such as Derek McWilliams, president of the Sea Rim Striders, who met up with a friend and the Golden Triangle Strutters in Beaumont last night to run 3 miles in memory of the three lives lost.

McWilliams decided that he would not let this affect him negatively, saying that qualifying for the Boston Marathon is still his goal and he would pursue it with even more drive.

“When one runner is affected, we’re all affected,” McWilliams said. “I’m overwhelmed seeing the support from everyone.”

“It’s not going to stop the runners,” he said.

On-scene reporter Julie Garcia contributed to this story.

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