Bryn Mawr Running Club members reflect on Boston attacks while preparing for Broad Street

Stephanie Shull was in Boston supporting her friends and fellow Bryn Mawr Running Club members in the Boston Marathon the day the bombs went off. 

“It was pretty unbelievable and scary and sad,” said Shull. “There was a lot going on.”

Shull’s friends had already finished the race when the bombs exploded. No one she knew was hurt but it’s still been on her mind ever since. Now, three weeks later, she’s getting ready to run Sunday’s Broad Street Run in Philadelphia. 

“It’s important not to let these stupid, horrible people that want to disrupt our life win,” she said.

Shull has been training for Broad Street with other members of the Bryn Mawr Running Club since January.  This Tuesday, more than a dozen members met in Manayunk for an evening workout. For the members participating in the Broad Street Run, it was their last practice before the 10-mile race.

‘I feel safe’ 

Many club members took time after the run to reflect on Boston. 

Club member Rachel Spoonhower was at work when she heard about the bombings.

“A bunch of my really close friends were up there, both in this club and I have friends that live up there. Ten names went through my head right away,” she said.

Fortunately, none of her friends were harmed.

“We kind of confirmed that everybody was okay pretty quickly amongst a group of us,” said Spoonhower.

Spoonhower has participated in Broad Street before and says she isn’t worried about a repeat of the Boston attacks.

“Some coworkers asked me, ‘Are you scared to run, will there be security?'” said Spoonhower. “But I think I feel fine. I feel safe. I know there is increased security and I don’t have any concerns that anything else is going to happen.”

Security precautions 

The Philadelphia Police Department along with the mayor’s office has been extremely vocal for the past two weeks about plans to make sure all participants and spectators feel safe on Sunday.

At a press conference Wednesday morning, Mayor Nutter discussed additional security measures for the race. He urged participants not to bring any gear they didn’t need in an effort to limit the number of bags in the area.  He also encouraged anyone with extra equipment to bring it in a clear, plastic bag to avoid having any suspicious parcels in the area on race day.

Attendees will be able to sign up for emergency text messages and there will be three evacuation shelters located along the race route at Benjamin Franklin High School, the School for Creative and Performing Arts and South Philadelphia High School.

All this comes on the heels of a press conference last week encouraging all local businesses to register their security cameras and announcing the acquisition of several $250,000 S4W Sentry mobile security cameras that will be placed at intervals along Broad Street.

Club Member Kevin Kelly likens all this extra security to any other sporting event.

“It’s something that we know has to be there,” said Kelly. “There’s always checkpoints and things. You go to a Phillies game or an Eagles game and you go through different checkpoints. We know it’s for the right intentions.”

Bringing communities closer 

High School track coach and club member Craig Polakoff said that terrorist attacks like those in Boston often have the opposite of their intended effect.

“I think any event like this has a tendency to bring people together,” said Polakoff. “Once the initial shock is over, people come together and I think it shows a better side of humanity and our society, of people really helping each other out.”

Kelly and the other members of the Bryn Mawr Running Club stressed the importance of having a running community to lean on. 

“The running clubs, especially in Philadelphia, are very social,” said Kelly. “That’s what keeps me going. I know I’m going to get a workout, but I also know I’m going to be with some of my best friends.”

Spectators will see that sense of community on Sunday, when many participants will be wearing red socks to show solidarity with those affected by the bombings. The demand for the socks has running stores, like the Bryn Mawr Running Co., struggling to keep enough on its shelves.

Both spectators and runners are encouraged to wear stickers with the words “From Philly to Boston with Love.” Philadelphians are also encouraged to make a donation to “The One Fund,” which has already raised more than $27 million for victims of the bombings and their families.

Joseph Van Dusen and Alexis Wilkinson are students at Temple University. This piece was produced for Temple’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab in collaboration with WHYY/NewsWorks.

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