Marathon Bombing Shocks Clubs, Stores Devoted To Runners

Running is big in Boston which is home to one of the world's most famous marathons. Small shops that specialize in running shoes and gear line the route. One shop sits right at the finish line, where Monday's attack killed three people.

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Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon shook Boston at many levels, including its deep running culture. Joggers along the Charles River are as much a part of the landscape in Boston as the river itself. And specialty running shops line the marathon route. NPR's Dan Bobkoff checked in with a running club that's back on its feet, and the store that found itself at the epicenter of Monday's bombings.

DAN BOBKOFF, BYLINE: In 2001, Marathon Sports opened a location finally befitting its name.

COLIN PEDDIE: It was a stroke of luck that landed me down at that finish-line store.

BOBKOFF: Luck, but store owner Colin Peddie had been eyeing that spot for seven years. And every year since, the Boston Marathon had been a day of celebration.

PEDDIE: It's like a homecoming to us.

BOBKOFF: Apparently, it's bad luck to buy marathon T-shirts and jackets until after the race. So like most years, Peddie arrived marathon morning to support his staff and stock the store. Around 2, he and his 14-year-old son headed home. When he flipped on the radio, he heard this.

PEDDIE: There was an explosion at Marathon Sports.

Abrupt U-turn. He sped back toward the blast with just one thing on his mind.

Grave concern for my staff, very grave concern.

BOBKOFF: Staff like Dan Soleau.

DAN SOLEAU: I just saw this giant ball of fire and then all of a sudden, the boom; and then the glass of the window behind me shattered, and I blacked out.

BOBKOFF: Soleau usually works in the chain's headquarters. But he was down at the Boston store that day, watching the marathon. He had been standing on a bench out front.

SOLEAU: I woke up on the ground. There was glass everywhere. There were people down. It's the worst thing I've ever seen.

BOBKOFF: He spent a few moments checking himself - no cuts, nothing broken. But just feet away was carnage. There was no time for shock. Soleau ran to gather first aid and water for victims. The entire store became a triage unit, and its staff turned T-shirts into tourniquets until first-responders took over. As the store workers cleared out of the way, they gathered nearby. Owner Colin Peddie and his son soon drove as close to the store as he could get.

PEDDIE: And pulled my car in right on the grass and stopped, and there in front of me was my staff, at the corner of Exeter and Comm Ave. And - just hugs and tears.

BOBKOFF: All of his employees were safe. Across the country, running groups dedicated jogs this week to the people of Boston. Last night, a group in nearby Newton had its first run since the bombings. Brielle Chabot led the group this week.

BRIELLE CHABOT: Today, I thought we could do just a simple three by Heartbreak Hill workout, just to honor the three victims from the bombings on Monday.

BOBKOFF: Heartbreak Hill marks the 20th mile of the Boston Marathon. For many, it's the hardest part of the race. Nearly everyone here either ran or watched the marathon Monday. This night, they swap stories as they run.

CHABOT: Did you get ...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROSSTALK)

BOBKOFF: Then the group ran up and down Heartbreak Hill, as they would on any Wednesday. Chabot says she's seen runners all over the Boston area. And she's not surprised.

PEDDIE: I think a lot of people were out there running today, to prove to the world that we're a strong city, and we're always going to be running.

BOBKOFF: The Boston Athletic Association insists the marathoners will be back here next year, struggling to get over Heartbreak Hill once more. Dan Bobkoff, NPR News, Boston.

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