INDIANAPOLIS - Just minutes before the start of the Indy 500, a few dozen racers hit the frontstretch at a considerably slower speed than the 33 cars that would follow. But they received at least as many cheers.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway reached out to the Boston Athletic Association, inviting people who were unable to finish the Boston Marathon because of the bombing last month. Non-finishers in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Illinois, 35 in all, came to IMS to run a ceremonial half-mile right before noon.
“We’re here having a lot of fun today. We were treated like dignitaries,” he said, “but there were a lot of people who were hurt in the bombings. And people died. We ran for them today. They couldn’t be here and we could so we ran for them.”
“The tragedy last month in Boston still resonates with everyone, so we wanted to give runners the chance to finish the race in front of thousands of fans who will appreciate their persistence and determination,” said Doug Boles, the speedway’s chief operating officer.
The runners heard cheers unlike they'd ever heard before as they ran down the fabled straightaway. The crowd broke into chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" as the runners passed, and many in the crowd waved American flags.
Ron Kuczma, a 65-year-old runner from Hudson, Ohio kept the day in perspective. “We’re here having a lot of fun today. We were treated like dignitaries,” he told the Indianapolis Star, “but there were a lot of people who were hurt in the bombings. And people died. We ran for them today. They couldn’t be here and we could so we ran for them.”
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-
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