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I'm running a marathon for Boston

By John D. Sutter, CNN
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed April 17, 2013
CNN iReport is asking people to run a marathon (or a shorter race) in solidarity with Boston bombing victims.
CNN iReport is asking people to run a marathon (or a shorter race) in solidarity with Boston bombing victims.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Runners are hitting the road in support of Boston bombing victims
  • John Sutter: I'm pledging to run a marathon by April 2014; join me
  • Sign up for the CNN iReport challenge: Run for Boston 2014
  • Sutter says the #runforboston hashtag led to the challenge

Editor's note: John D. Sutter is a human rights and social change columnist at CNN Opinion. E-mail him at CTL@CNN.com or follow him on Twitter (@jdsutter), Facebook or Google+.

(CNN) -- Only a few hours had passed after the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured hundreds, when this little nugget of inspiration showed up in my Twitter feed:

"Back home. You know what? I'm going for a run. Definitely."

John D. Sutter
John D. Sutter

That tweet is from Peter Vigneron, a writer who was at the marathon when the bombs went off. Luckily, as he writes on his blog, he was far enough from the blasts to be safe.

As the hours went by I started to see more online posts like that -- runners in Boston and elsewhere making pledges to lace up their sneakers and hit the road. It felt like a groundswell of grass-roots action, a collective statement that this tragedy, no matter who perpetrated it or why, wasn't going to stop people from doing what they love.

iReport: Run for Boston 2014

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By Tuesday, people from Hong Kong, India, Canada, England, Croatia, Brazil, Mexico, Russia and the Netherlands were using the hashtag #runforboston and a Google doc created by CNN iReporter Becca Obergefell to log their journeys.

The momentum has been building. As of early Tuesday afternoon, 360 people had logged more than 1,200 running miles on Obergefell's page.

People also have been sharing their stories with her.

"I ran to clear my head, but it didn't work. So I ran because I could. Because the freedom of running wasn't taken away from me. Because the running community stretches to all cities and all places, and I'm glad to be a part of it," one person wrote to Obergefell, a 26-year-old in Columbus, Ohio.

Boston remembers the bombing victims
Chinese student killed in Boston bombing

I heard these stories and got inspired.

That's why I'm pledging to run a marathon in honor of Boston -- and, since I'm kind of a couch potato, I'm going to pledge to do it by April 15, 2014, the 1-year anniversary of the tragedy.

I'd like to invite you to do the same.

Sign up by going to the "Run for Boston 2014" page on CNN iReport and uploading a photo of you and your running shoes. Alternatively, post the photo to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #runforboston and #cnnireport.

If you're so inclined, tell us why you're running.

You don't have to pledge to run a marathon. Run a mile or a 5K -- or do a walk. The important thing is to get out there and get moving. Do it for Boston. Do it for your health. Or, if you use the simple app called Charity Miles, you can do it to raise money for one of the several worthy charities it features.

I'm doing it because I feel like I've got to do something. It's been 12 years since 9/11 and 18 years since the Oklahoma City bombing. I was safely miles away, in a middle school classroom, when a bomb exploded in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168. But that morning is stuck in my memory forever. I'm running because I don't want any of these tragedies to change me or to change us as a people -- to make us afraid, to keep us indoors.

I am by no means a regular runner -- or even a runner at all. One of my friends saw a post about this idea on Facebook and thought I was joking. So please don't feel shy about signing up to do something new. I have no idea what I'm getting myself into -- and I think that's probably a good thing, at least for now.

CNN also hopes to make a video about the collective journey -- and I'm running to see what it will be like to (hopefully) complete this challenge as a group.

I could go on, but instead I'm going to go take a photo with my sneakers.

And then hit the sidewalk.

I hope you'll do the same.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of John D. Sutter.

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