BOSTON — Rosy Spraker was only a half-mile from the finish line of her seventh Boston Marathon when the bombs went off. She received her medal later in the mail at her Lorton, Va., home. But she couldn’t bring herself to wear it until Saturday, when she and thousands of other athletes joined victims of the blast to run and walk the last mile of the race.
“Now I feel like I’ve earned my medal,” Spraker said, beaming, after she crossed the Boylston Street finish line, encouraged by a cheering crowd. “I wanted to run for the victims, for freedom, to show the world that nothing is going to stop us.”
“Somebody that thinks that they’re going to stop a marathoner from running doesn’t understand the mentality of a marathoner,” said her husband, Lesley, after he placed the medal around Spraker’s neck.
On April 15, explosions near the finish line killed three people and wounded more than 260.
On Saturday morning, about 3,000 runners and bombing victims gathered in light rain to run the final mile of the world’s oldest annual marathon, said Kathleen McGonagle, spokeswoman for those organizing the event known as OneRun.
OneRun honors victims and emergency workers and allows runners to reclaim the final mile, McGonagle said.
“For the runner that didn’t get the chance to finish the marathon, this is the chance for them to experience the final mile that was taken away from them,” McGonagle said.
For many runners, it was also a chance to heal from the events of that harrowing day.
“It was very emotional to run down this street and see all the people cheering,” said OneRun organizer J. Alain Ferry, who was prevented from completing his ninth consecutive Boston Marathon on April 15 and ran the final mile Saturday.
“There were a lot of tears,” Ferry said, clutching his 2013 marathon bib, with the number 22084. “And I can feel in my throat that there are going to be more. This was a scab for everyone that just was not healing.”
Jarrod Clowery suffered severe leg injuries and hearing loss in the explosions, but he is proud of Boston’s response.
“The bomb goes off, and it’s one second of the worst humans can do immediately followed by the best that humans can do … Here we are, four weeks, five weeks later, and the best that humans can do is still happening,” he said.
Clowery expected to be nervous and anxious when returning to the finish line where he was hurt, but he said the “good intentions and the love in people’s faces” helped him feel normal during OneRun.
Bridget Dodson, who just graduated from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., finished the race Saturday with a group of her friends.
“We felt like it was kind of an obligation in a way — to do it for the people who can’t do it and to finish our marathon, too,” she said. “We felt it was our way of coming out and showing resilience.”
Dodson said OneRun sends a positive message.
“In the end, good wins, and no one’s going to take that away from you,” she said. “That’s what it felt like — that they were trying to take the marathon away. And it just felt good to be able to finish our own marathon and to be able to stand for something bigger than ourselves.”
Dodson and her friends had not planned to run the 2014 Boston Marathon, but now that’s changed. She said they felt it was their duty to run one more time, to “honor the people who were hurt and may not be able to do it next year.”
While the event was not a fundraiser, donations from some corporate sponsors covered OneRun operating costs, McGonagle said, and any leftover funds will be sent to a charity set up to benefit bombing victims.
Emily Koepsell, another organizer for OneRun, hoped Bolyston Street businesses would also benefit.
“We’re hoping that when people cross the finish line, they will go eat in the local restaurants and visit the local businesses and rejuvenate the economy there,” she said.
Before the race, the National Anthem was sung by the choir from St. Ann Parish, where 8-year-old victim Martin Richard’s family worshipped.
“It was a beautiful thing,” said an emotional Steve Poirier, of Chelmsford, who had been running his sixth Boston Marathon when he was turned back last month. “As a runner, you want the chance to finish. Better late than never.”
With reporting by the WBUR Newsroom and the Associated Press.