For Toronto marathon runner Rob Kent, the Boston marathon bombings felt personal.
“When I heard about what happened in Boston the first story that came through was the one about the little boy Martin Richard who died waiting for his dad at the finish line. My son’s only five months old but he’s already been at the finish line of two of my races.
“It really, really upset me and I wanted to do something,” said the 36-year-old Leslieville resident.
In response he organized an online fundraiser campaign to sell T-shirts with Boston’s blue and gold colours and the words “Boston ,we run with you” for runners to wear during the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon on May 5.
Through the crowd-funding site Indiegogo and with the help of Twitter and Facebook, Mr. Kent and a group of Toronto runners have raised about $2,000 to support the Boston Children’s Hospital, where young victims were taken.
Mr. Kent said he initially wanted to do something specifically for the Richard family. “The kernel of the idea came from there but it just grew and grew and I realized the message would get to them and it would be a much bigger tribute.”
But for him it’s not just about the shirts.
“We are also trying to get as many runners and spectators to just show up on race day wearing blue and yellow colours to show their support,” he said, adding that a runner from Ottawa has contacted him about the idea and wants to continue the campaign for the Ottawa marathon. That race will be held May 25-26.
Runner Mike Bentley who is training for the Toronto Marathon, said the beauty of the campaign is that it has really brought the running community together, at least virtually.
“I’ve never actually met Rob before. We are merely a part of a running group on Facebook. It just goes to show the compassion, within and of, the running community. It felt like we were all attacked in a way.”
Toronto Marathon organizers promoted the shirts on their Facebook page. Race director Jay Glassman said they also plan to say a few words at the start of the marathon, half marathon and five-kilometre on race day. They will also observe a moment of silence at the finish line in Mel Lastman Square.
They are offering a reduced registration fee for anyone who has run the Boston Marathon. Mr. Glassman said several runners who were there this year will be running the 42 kilometre Toronto route.
Organizers expect about 12,000 runners from over 50 countries including Brazil, Australia and Kenya.
“One of the interesting things is that out of all those people, we have only received one e-mail from one woman who was worried about security,” Mr. Glassman said, noting there has been a spike in interest from people who want to show their support on race day.
“There has been unwavering support of runners and people have said if they can’t run, they’re going to support those who can.”
Mr. Glassman and the other race organizers met with Toronto police after the bombing to discuss security. He said he’s confident “there’s no threat to Toronto and there’s no threat to the race.”