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Local runners unite to support Boston Marathon victims

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Janet Donnelly and her children Andrew, 7, and Samantha, 5, were among the forty plus runners who participated in the 2.5 mile Run for Boston which started at the Fleet Feet Sports in downtown Larenceville Tuesday evening. The run was in honor of those killed and wounded during the explosions at the Boston Marathon Monday.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Janet Donnelly and her children Andrew, 7, and Samantha, 5, were among the forty plus runners who participated in the 2.5 mile Run for Boston which started at the Fleet Feet Sports in downtown Larenceville Tuesday evening. The run was in honor of those killed and wounded during the explosions at the Boston Marathon Monday.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Employee of Fleet Feet Sports Erin Barbely leads the forty plus runners who participated in the 2.5 mile Run for Boston which started at the Fleet Feet Sports in downtown Larenceville Tuesday evening. The run was in honor of those killed and wounded during the explosions at the Boston Marathon Monday.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Mike Beaudreau a former commissioner who lives outside of Lawrenceville talks to locals about being a block away from the first major blast that took place at the Boston Marathon Monday. About forty runner participated in the 2.5 mile "Run for Boston" which started at the Fleet Feet Sports in downtown Larenceville Tuesday evening.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Employee of Fleet Feet Sports Erin Barbely speaks to runners about the Run for Boston being in honor of those killed and wounded during the explosions at the Boston Marathon Monday.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Even in a small way, a group of nearly 50 runners on Tuesday night set out to show support for those involved and affected by Monday's Boston Marathon bombings.

A regular, weekly two-and-a-half-mile running club meeting at Fleet Feet Sports in Lawrenceville took on added significance as two runners who ran the Boston Marathon in the last two years recalled their memories of the race. Fleet Feet manager Jay Middleton called it surreal knowing there were people he knew near the bombings, and in the aftermath, runners would lean on resiliancy and determination to carry on.

Former Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau recorded a personal best in Monday's race -- 3:04.47 -- and about an hour after he returned from Boston on Tuesday, he was at Fleet Feet. Beaudreau said his emotions were raw after the event, which was a liftime dream, but he came to Tuesday's run because, "it's important for the running community to unite."

Beaudreau finished the race about an hour and a half before the explosions, and tried to find his way back to his hotel when everyone on the street stopped.

"It was that loud, and everybody just kind of looked at each other," he said. "Nobody really knew what happened."

Beaudreau, who finished No. 2,800, said he was among a group of runners who looked to give blood at area hospitals, but was turned away because of an overwhelming response.

Beaudreau said it's difficult to describe how much the race means to Boston.

"They take so much pride in that event," he said. "Multiply the "Run the Reagan" times 100 or 500. We take a lot of pride in our marathons here in Gwinnett. Imagine being the world championship of marathons, that's basically what it is. Enormous amount of pride."

Lawrenceville resident Sarah Saenz ran in last year's Boston Marathon and was at Fleet Feet on Tuesday. She said Monday was a difficult day because the event, "is supposed to be so positive."

Although school obligations kept her from running this year, Saenz said she has fond memories of the event and felt very safe.

"It was a great experience. My favorite marathon," she said. "Everyone was nice. There wasn't a section where you didn't have someone supporting you and excited for you. It's like a big party."

Because the incident happened near the finish line, Beaudreau said he assumed the very people who gave him hugs and congratulated him were the ones hurt. One man had volunteered near the finish line for 11 straight years.

"I don't know who was hurt," Beaudreau said, "but my heart bleeds."

Middleton said his store plans to organize a benefit race in the next three weeks for victims of the incident.

"We're going to make sure the people of Boston and the surrounding areas know how much we appreciate them, and show our support," Beaudreau said.