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Runners seek return to Boston

May 20, 2013
 
Scenes from the 2013 Cellcom Green Bay Marathon
Scenes from the 2013 Cellcom Green Bay Marathon: Scenes from the 2013 Cellcom Green Bay Marathon glimpsed around the area and at Lambeau Field on Sunday morning, May 19, 2013.
A runner waves to her friends and family outside Lambeau Field during Sunday's Cellcom Green Bay Marathon. / photos by Lukas Keapproth/Press-Gazette Media

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Jill Coens ran Sunday’s 26.2-mile Cellcom Green Bay Marathon for one reason: to qualify for next year’s Boston Marathon.

The 48-year-old from southwestern Wisconsin fearlessly reached her goal with an unofficial chip time of 3 hours, 47 minutes, 49 seconds.

“I just feel the need to go back next year to prove to (the terrorists) what happened there won’t stop us runners from going back and running. It actually just makes us stronger,” said Coens, who has now finished eight marathons, including Boston in 2010 and 2012.

Honoring those affected by the April 15 Boston bombings was a priority for the thousands of spectators and the roughly 6,500 runners who took part in the 13.1-mile half marathon, full marathon and marathon relay.

Now in its 14th year, officials said a record number of more than 13,500 people participated in all the weekend races for the event, including Saturday’s 5K run/walk and WPS Kids’ Power Run. There were 10,044 finishers in the marathon, half-marathon and 5K, organizers said Monday.

Before the race began, runners and others who wore special wristbands commemorating the Boston bombings were asked to raise their arms in the air in silence for 26 seconds in memory of the three people killed and the more than 260 wounded. The 26 seconds represented the 26.2 miles of a marathon.

“As runners, we are all part of one family and we run as one,” race director Sean Ryan said. “We know now that we’re not immune to an attack, but we also proved that we’re resilient to attacks.”

Thousands of runners making a lap around Lambeau Field near the end of the course marked an uplifting ending for the Cellcom event, which had been plagued by controversy the last two years.

The distance events were canceled midrace last year due to temperatures near 80 degrees and excessive humidity. In 2011, runners ran an extra 800 feet due to incorrect course markings just after mile three. Times were later adjusted. Stadium construction prevented the run around the field last year.

Temperatures were at 61 degrees at the 7 a.m. race start, but later jumped to 79 degrees by noon. However, winds at 10 to 15 mph worked to keep runners cool as they ran through the streets across the Green Bay area. Though many participants said the conditions were less than ideal, they quickly added it was much better than 2012.

At least three runners Sunday were taken to a hospital—one for cardiac arrest and two others for hyperthermia, which means their bodies became overheated.

As is standard in distance races, many runners were exhausted once they reached the finish line and they grabbed for bottled water and held bags of ice on their sore muscles. Emergency staff equipped with wheelchairs waited at the finish line to assist some runners who fainted or could no longer walk.

Authorities reported runners had some minor injuries, but said it did not reach the level of 2012 when weather conditions sent 18 runners to emergency rooms and lead to dozens more requiring on-side medical attention.

“The last few years have been very turbulent for this event,” Ryan added. “It feels relieving to see everything going smooth.”

Organizers implemented changes this year to improve access to medical care for racers, and added police and security personnel.

Volunteers with a hand-held radio were positioned at each of the 20 water and medical stations along the marathon course. Also at each station: two medical providers. Not only were there more hand-held radios on the course, operators had access to a greater number of radio channels.

Officials also honored the Boston Marathon medical team for showing extraordinary heroism during the tragedy.

Chris Troyanos, Boston Marathon medical coordinator, attended the event. He worked with Cellcom race officials to improve their medical responses.

“The outpouring of support has meant so much to us and its allowed us to get through some very tough times,” he said.

He advised runners not to let those terrorist acts prevent them from participating in marathons.

“Don’t let it stop your life,” he said. “If you do, I think you’re letting the terrorists win.”

Many runners said they did not fear any attacks would occur at the event and believed the bombings actually helped to galvanize the running community.

New to this year’s race was a color-coded alert system with flags set up at every water station to notify runners of weather or security concerns. The system stayed on the lowest level, green, throughout the race. Later in the day, Ryan said that maybe the alert level should have been elevated to yellow, which means runners should slow down and be prepared for worsening conditions.

Some runners said due to warm weather the past two years that maybe the event should occur earlier in May. However, Ryan said next year’s events are already scheduled for May 17-18.

Green Bay police Capt. Bill Galvin said crews received reports of unattended bags near the Lambeau Field Oneida Nation Gate and along the race course. However, officers later found the owners of the bags and no suspicious items were detected.

Officers were focused on preventing any potential attacks. Green Bay police’s armored surveillance vehicle, the Armadillo, was stationed near the medical tent to capture any suspicious activity near the finish line, the same location of the Boston bombings.

Galvin said he noticed that communications between police and medical staff improved a lot from 2012.

“We had really no issues at all,” he said. “I think (planning officials) learned a lot from last year to this year—and it shows.”

Over the past 13 years, the marathon has donated more than $674,000 to local charities through registration fees. This year’s charity partners are Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Northeastern Wisconsin, Junior Achievement of Wisconsin in Brown County and Unity hospice services.

cedavis@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @pgcharlesdavis. This report also includes material from Associated Press

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