Boston race adds emotion, security

BOSTON -- Tyler Andrews ran out the final stretch coming back down Seaport Boulevard, the final bit a full-out sprint across the brick path that forms a crosswalk outside the Seaport Boston World Trade Center.

Once the ribbon had been broken in two, he collapsed in a heap on the wet pavement, eventually brought to his feet again with the help of three police officers. "I'm glad it's over," he thought to himself.

And then, it sunk in.

"It's definitely a really emotional race for me," said the 23-year-old native of Concord, Mass. "The last mile or so, I'm running by all the people running the five-mile, and at that point I'm running by myself for a while. I'm so moved by everyone, really elated, just trying to enjoy the moment."

This marks the second straight year that Andrews, a recent Tufts University graduate who starred on the Jumbos' cross-country and track-and-field squads, has won Boston's Run To Remember half-marathon. Now in its ninth year, with the start and finish line at the World Trade Center, the event is put on by Boston area police officers and detectives, and benefits children's programs of the Boston Police Runners Club.

But like many other road races being held in the wake of last month's bombing at the Boston Marathon, the race has seen a spike in both attendance and sentimental value.

Race director Steve Balfour said this event has seen a rise of about 800 registrants each year since its inception. He estimated last year's number of registered runners at 9,400, though he admitted about 15 percent of registrants are no-shows each year.

This year, nearly 12,000 registered, including some 3,000 in the week following the April 15 marathon bombing that killed three and injured more than 250. Just an hour after the bombing occurred, Balfour said registration "started clicking up rapidly."

"It was overwhelming," Balfour said. "I was caught off guard as race director. You don't know what's going to happen; maybe people want to stay away from events for a while. But no, Boston really wanted to be strong, and they came out for it.

"Normally, all races have a tiered registration, and so our rate fee always goes up on the night of the Boston Marathon. But out of tribute, and because of all the things that were going on, we kept the low rate. It filled right up at that lower rate. That was great, so many people wanting to make a difference right away."

This year's race paid tribute to Sean Collier, the MIT officer who was slain in the line of duty during the 22-hour manhunt for the bombing suspects. In addition to the number bibs runners wore on their front, each runner wore a special bib on their back bearing the number 179, Collier's badge number. Collier had planned to run this year's race.

Boston police commissioner Ed Davis addressed the crowd before the 7 a.m. starting time, thanking them for their commitment to the event, followed by a moment of silence for Collier and a round of bagpipes and kettle drums playing "Amazing Grace."

"The significance of this race is important to all police officers in Boston after what we've been through," Davis said. "The turnout has been indicative of how people have felt since this incident happened. Our support has been unprecedented, and this is another indication that people care. We really appreciate that; it's been an incredible experience that out of such tragedy we get this kind of support."

Asked about how Collier's name resonates, Davis said, "It's a name that's synonymous with sacrifice.

"I didn't know Sean personally, but I know his boss very well. [MIT police chief] John DiFava and I have been friends for many years. John talked to him an hour before he was killed. John and I have discussed that. It's a terrible tragedy, and it's an indication of the sacrifice officers make every day across the nation. Sean and his family are forever in our memory, and our hearts go out to them."

The race saw significantly increased security presence, some of it coming from private firms, with tighter measures that Davis called "common sense" procedures, such as allowing only clear bags inside the barricaded areas that surrounded the finish line.

The diverse group of runners came from 44 U.S. states and 16 countries across five continents, and included groups of officers from New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Some runners, such as Andrews, already had the race on their schedule. The Concord native registered back in February at the request of Balfour. But there were many others, including Allie Millett, 25, of Charlestown, who registered a day after the bombing, the first time she's ever signed up for the event.

Millett, a San Francisco native who works in medical device sales, won the women's half-marathon. Asked about any potential fears of running, she answered bluntly.

"I think it's the opposite. We're kind of like, 'Screw you,'" said Millett, a member of the Greater Boston Track Club. "That's what we're like -- you're not going to scare us, we're all going to run it faster and better. That's our mentality here [in Boston]."