By Scott Meeker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
After completing the Boston Marathon on April 15, Ashleigh Beyersdorfer made her way through the throngs of runners to retrieve the bag she had checked in and was on her way to meet up with her family when she heard the explosions.
“I heard both of them. You could feel it, but there was so much noise that I didn’t even flinch,” she said. “No one else did either. There was a massive crowd of people, just shoulder to shoulder, and everybody kept walking.”
Soon after, Beyersdorfer watched as a woman with a phone pressed to her face pushed upstream through the crowd. She had a frantic expression on her face, and she was saying something about bombs having gone off.
Moments later, the sound of approaching sirens and helicopters could be heard from nearly every direction.
“I knew something major had happened,” Beyersdorfer said. “I walked around for two hours trying to get a taxi. When I got to the hotel, I saw it was a terrorist attack.”
Beyersdorfer, the owner of Joplin’s Starlit Running Co., said her initial reaction was fear. But it quickly gave way to anger, and then resolve to do something to help.
She found a way to lend her support through the One Run for Boston.
The nonstop running relay began June 7 in Los Angeles and is scheduled to end Sunday, June 30, in Boston. More than 1,000 runners across the country are taking part, with each one making a contribution to the One Fund Boston, which was established to help victims of the bombing and their families.
At 8 p.m. Wednesday, Beyersdorfer is scheduled to take the baton for a nine-mile run from Afton to Fairland, Okla., before handing it off to the next runner.
She’s not alone in her efforts. A number of area runners are scheduled to help carry the baton as the relay passes through the region.
Louis Niewald, president of the Joplin Roadrunners, said he first found out about the event through a link on Facebook. After learning more about it, he was eager to participate.
He will be running a 12.5-mile leg, from Vinita to Afton, starting at 6:25 p.m. Wednesday.
“I think this will be a good event to show our camaraderie with other runners across the country,” he said. “I feel like it’s part of Boston getting back in the saddle again. I think with next year’s marathon they’ll officially be back in the saddle, but this is America’s contribution to helping them.”
The event didn’t start in the United States, however.
The One Run for Boston was actually the brainchild of three United Kingdom citizens — Kate Treleaven, Jamie Hay and Danny Bent — who were listening to radio coverage of the marathon when the bombings happened.
“We had an overriding sense of wanting to do something to help, but we’re not wealthy people,” Treleaven said. “We were not going to be able to make a difference just by writing a check.”
Last year, she had organized a relay run around Britain to benefit a children’s charity, and the group came up with the idea of a larger event that could connect an entire country of runners and show solidarity for Boston. The website for the event was launched in early May.
“We searched the Internet for running clubs, and made contacts through Facebook and Twitter,” Treleaven said. “We unleashed this idea on the American population and hoped for the best.”
The response to the event far exceeded their expectations, she said.
“Everyone has been so supportive, and it has been pretty emotional for everyone,” Treleaven said. “Danny and I went to Los Angeles (for the start of the relay) and have been following along in a car. Last night, we met a guy who flew in from Maine to run three stages back to back.”
The run, she said, has continued rain or shine, including through a Texas lightning storm “the likes of which a Brit has never seen before.”
“The only way I can describe it is that it’s totally overwhelming,” Treleaven said. “We had an idea and thought it was a good one, but we didn’t have an idea of the mood of the nation. We didn’t know if people in the West would have an affinity for people in Boston. But this is one nation and very united.
“People are treating (the One Run for Boston) as a kind of healing event to get closure ... something positive to counteract something negative.”
Ken Schramm, of Joplin, will be taking the baton at 4:20 a.m. Thursday in Granby.
Like Beyersdorfer, he participated in the 2013 Boston Marathon, finishing about an hour before the explosions. He said family members watched him cross the finish line from a vantage point very close to where the bombs went off.
“This was definitely a cause that I wanted to help support and be a part of,” Schramm said.
He said that as his leg of the run approaches, he is monitoring the progress of other runners online.
“They were behind schedule early on, but now they’re an hour or so ahead,” he said. “We’re supposed to keep in contact with the two runners in front of us and the two after us as it’s progressing.”
Joplin resident Shaun Steele, who will run 10 miles starting at 6 a.m. Thursday in Monett, calls the One Run for Boston “a miracle of social networking.”
“It’s amazing that they were able to get so many people involved that quickly,” the Rufus Racing member said.
Beyersdorfer said she’s happy to see that the One Run for Boston has “caught on like wildfire” among runners across the United States.
Her initial thoughts of being afraid to go back to Boston are long gone.
“That’s the goal (of terrorism) ... to scare people from doing what they love,” she said. “But it’s not going to deter us.
“Those people who lost limbs and lost lives were there cheering for me and others running for the finish line. Knowing that the money goes to those victims, I would do anything to help.”
THE BATON CARRIED BY RUNNERS was designed by Plymouth University art student Jon Parlby. It contains a GPS device inside so that people can visit the One Run for Boston website — onerunforboston.org — and track its progress across the United States.