By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Armstrong Elementary School gym teacher and Westborough High School coach Ali Rheaume was one of the runners to carry the torch in the final leg of One Run for Boston, a 24-day, 3,300-mile relay across the U.S. to raise money for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
The non-stop race began June 7 in Los Angeles and ended just after midnight July 1 in Boston. ?More than 1,000 runners from across the U.S. participated, carrying a lighted baton through 14 states. Along the way, runners endured thunderstorms, pouring rain, floods, and extreme heat just to keep the relay going.
The torch, named “Miles,” is actually a plastic GPS-equipped baton designed by a Plymouth University student and inspired by a Japanese peace lily.
“It was an event to remember those lost, heal those affected, support those who ran, and come together as one to raise money doing what we love to do – run,” Rheaume said.
The event, organized by three runners from England, raised more than $80,000 for The One Fund to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and their families.
The final leg followed the exact route of the marathon, from Newton to Boylston Street, where hundreds of supporters had gathered to support the more than 650 runners and cheer them on to the finish.
Rheaume ran the race with her mother Sue and sister Jen, who had run the Boston Marathon in April, finishing shortly before the first bomb exploded.
“We were waiting at the Mandarin [Oriental] hotel for [Jen and her boyfriend Sam] to celebrate. They got to us and within five minutes, the first bomb went off,” Rheaume recalled. “We were rushed away from Boylston Street and the day was mayhem from there.”
Rheaume, her mother, and her sister received the torch in Newton June 30 at around 11:20 p.m. – more than four hours behind schedule — and ran through the dark streets and rain, arriving at the finish line around 12:45 a.m. July 1.
“People were beeping their horns and pulling over to support us,” she said. “Runners were from all across the country. People who ran legs of the race in different states were so inspired that they flew last minute into Boston just to run the end of the race.”
For Rheaume and her family the race was a chance to put the horrible events of April 15 behind them.
“It was my first time back to Boylston Street since the marathon which was surreal and unexplainable,” she said. “Running this race was a positive way to come back and put new, happy memories in place of the terror that was there.”
Donations may still be made through the event website: onerunforboston.org.