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Why we're running for Boston

By John D. Sutter, CNN
updated 5:47 AM EDT, Thu April 25, 2013
Andrew Bunyard, 28, works at a hospital in Boston. "I refuse to forget what I witnessed and heard," he said. Andrew Bunyard, 28, works at a hospital in Boston. "I refuse to forget what I witnessed and heard," he said.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Runners take to the streets in response to the Boston bombing
  • iReporters have started a Run for Boston project
  • Join the movement by May 1 by uploading a photo of your running shoes
  • CNN will issue new Run for Boston challenges in coming weeks

Editor's note: Sign up for the Run for Boston project by uploading a photo of your sneakers to this CNN iReport page. John D. Sutter is a columnist at CNN Opinion. E-mail him at CTL@CNN.com or follow him on Twitter (@jdsutter), Facebook or Google+.

(CNN) -- Rosa Brooks says "keep calm and shut the bleep up."

The witty Foreign Policy writer is sick of what she calls "self-indulgent vicarious trauma" following the blasts at the marathon finish line in Boston last week, which killed three people, injured more than 100 and set off a manhunt that left an MIT cop dead.

"You don't need to keep changing your Facebook status to let us all know that you're still extremely shocked and sad about the Boston bombing," she wrote last week. "Let's just stipulate that everyone is shocked and sad, except the perpetrators and some other scattered sociopaths."

CNN iReport: Run for Boston

John D. Sutter
John D. Sutter
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Part of me loves her piece. It's a worthy critique of the faux-concern and needless commercialism that can grow out of tragedy. But I think Brooks is selling people short by writing that "there just isn't much most ordinary people should do in immediate response to events such as the Boston bombings."

There's plenty to do, as runners have shown in the week since the bombing. Within hours of the blasts, people all over the world were lacing up their running shoes and going outside to run. It's a simple, selfish act. Some did it to clear their heads. Others to process what had just happened to fellow runners and those cheering them on. I did it because I felt like I just needed to do something. And I feel all the more compelled to keep training because of inspirational stories like those of Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a dance instructor who lost her foot in the bombing but vows to dance and run again.

On their own, none of these runs means much. But when people started sharing their stories on Twitter with the hashtag #runforboston, they took on a greater significance. The collective runs started to feel like a form of protest -- a global show of solidarity with victims and a middle finger to violence and its perpetrators. Some runners started raising money for charity or to help with relief efforts. Others, like Becca Obergefell, from Ohio, who started a website for people to log the miles they were running for Boston (more than 4,000 runs have been logged so far), wanted Boston's victims, some of whom were robbed of their legs and possibly their abilities to run, that the world was thinking of them.

Memorial: 'We are Boston strong'

Sutter: Why I'm running for Boston

Perhaps that's childish and naive, but I do think that matters.

That's why CNN iReport is asking runners and would-be runners to sign up to run a race -- maybe a marathon? -- as a show of solidarity with, and support for, the victims of the Boston bombing.

More than 250 people have signed up to run a race. They're from Boston, Ohio, California, Australia and Germany. Some are raising money for charity with an app called Charity Miles. Others are running because of personal connections to Boston, because they felt the bombing was an attack on runners everywhere, or because they were moved by a particular story.

"I refuse to forget what I witness," wrote Andrew Bunyard, 28, who lives near the site of the bombing in Boston. "Let's reclaim our city," wrote Karin Kenney, a 45-year-old from Massachusetts.

"I'd like to show marathon runners and those watching that I'm inspired by so many of them," wrote Jessica Pilkington, a 27-year-old who works in Boston.

"As runners, we are resilient by nature," wrote Megan Biller, 29, from Michigan.

All of them have pledged to run a race as a way to work through the tragedy.

I'd encourage you to join in. I'm going to run a marathon by next April as part of this Run for Boston project. And if you'd like to sign up, you have until May 1 to do so. All you have to do is take a picture of your sneakers and tell us a little bit about why you're running.

Then look for updates. We'll post new instructions and challenges in the weeks ahead. On the one-month anniversary of the bombing, May 15, we're going to ask iReporters to host group runs all over the country and world in honor and remembrance of those who died and were injured in Boston.

Got questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments.

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

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