Falmouth Runners Spurred By Bombings To Run Marathon

Tammy Knight-Gibbons of Falmouth posing with the Official One Fund Boston Marathon 2014 Team during the Sports Illustrated cover shoot last Saturday. Ms. Knight-Gibbons and her teammates have raised over $600,000 so far for the fund.
PHOTO COURTESY TAMMY KNIGHT-GIBBONS - Tammy Knight-Gibbons of Falmouth posing with the Official One Fund Boston Marathon 2014 Team during the Sports Illustrated cover shoot last Saturday. Ms. Knight-Gibbons and her teammates have raised over $600,000 so far for the fund.

A year ago today, April 15, the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street was transformed into something like a war zone. Many Falmouth residents were near the site of the bombings or knew friends and family that were there in the chaos. But instead of deterring them from this year’s race, last year’s tragedy has compelled many Falmouth runners to the Boston Marathon start line, with a feeling that it is the place they should be.

One such runner is Boston Marathon newcomer Tammy Knight-Gibbons, owner of the Main Street bakery CupCapes of Falmouth.

Ms. Knight-Gibbons was selected out of 400 applicants to run and raise money for One Fund Boston—the main fundraising effort for marathon victims. It pays for things like prosthetics and medical bills for survivors.

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“I wanted to do something that was bigger than me,” she said. This two-time cancer survivor and marathon runner was prompted to act after hearing the compelling stories of bravery and resiliency that surfaced during last year’s race.

As part of the Official One Fund Boston Marathon 2014 Team, she attended the Sports Illustrated photo shoot last Saturday. An estimated 2,000 people gathered at the race finish line for the cover shoot marking the anniversary of the bombings. The crowd included first responders, the Boston police commissioner, the Boston mayor, marathon runners and a few people who had been severely injured in the bombing.

Because the creation of the team wasn’t announced until January, the runners have had a shorter window to train for the race and to raise money. Despite this, Ms. Knight-Gibbons said she has not had a bad training day.

The One Fund runners often train with the 4.15 group—a team of 50 marathon survivors who are going back to run again. Some are missing limbs; some have lost their hearing or have scars on their body. One of the 4.15 runners had her calf muscle seared off by shrapnel.

“I run alongside a woman with a prosthetic leg. I think, never mind if my legs ache. At least I have a limb.”

She has raised just over $14,000, mainly through social media outlets. Her bakery customers contribute to the cause either through the store’s Facebook page or by the tip jar on the counter.

“It’s been incredibly heartwarming. People are really generous.”

The group collectively has raised $615,000 so far, exceeding their original goal of $500,000.

“It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life already. Race day should be off the charts,” she said.

When two explosions occurred near the finish line on Boston’s Boylston Street one year ago, Gary S. Pokraka of Cachalot Lane was in the finish line chute, corralled with hundreds of other finishers when the cheers turned to screams. He had crossed the line nine minutes prior to the bombings.

“I hadn’t planned on running another Boston Marathon, until the bombings. It was during that long day that I knew I just had to,” Mr. Pokraka said. This will be this third Boston Marathon.

“We heard a loud boom and thought perhaps it was a Patriot’s Day celebration cannon. But then when we heard another boom 12 seconds later, we knew something was very wrong, he said. Within a few minutes, he said he heard a cacophony of sirens while spectators ran by him, crying, holding onto their children. A few moments later, he looked up and saw canine units atop Boylston Street buildings while ATF officers and Boston police officers sprinted past.

“It was all very surreal. I imagine it’s was it felt like on 9/11,” he said.

With cell service out of service the rest of the day, he used Facebook to let family and friends know he was unharmed.

“We are all in this together and we all run together because we can. We run for ourselves, for those who are unable, for the amazing crowds that line the entire route and for all those affected by last year’s unfortunate tragedy”, he said.

Running is a family affair; his father, Ronald F. Pokraka, ran 20 consecutive Boston Marathons and is a member of the Falmouth Five, the only runners who have run every Falmouth Road Race. Both of his older brothers have run the Boston Marathon 10 times.

“I think runners look forward to challenges. We’re not going to let what happened last year deter us or scare us away.”

After running for four hours and 20 minutes, Paul DiAngelis of Cedar Meadows Drive, was stopped by Boston Police, 7/10ths of a mile from the finish.

“At first we were all disappointed and a little angry that we couldn’t finish. But then it turned into feeling confused and then worry.”

Mr. DiAngelis said without knowing any official information, he and the line of runners that had stacked up behind him began hearing rumors of six more bombs throughout the city. 

“We were worried and our phones weren’t working. Then we started to get cold, and we couldn’t tell friends and family that we were okay” he said.

During his wait, he decided to run again the following year.

“There’s no way I’m going to miss it. It’s like unfinished business,” he said.

Race volunteers walked the course, handing out heat reflective wraps to the 5,000 racers still left on the course. Mr. DiAngelis said he saw store owners and Boston residents appear with sweatshirts and other warm clothes for the racers who had left their gear bags with family members.

“It’s going to be emotional and tough to finish the race with dry eyes. I think the race will bring out patriotic feelings all over again. A lot of people chose to run again this year because of, not in spite of, what happened last year,” he said.

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