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Gainesville fitness group organizes run to honor Boston victims
A group of Gainesville runners prays Tuesday evening for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing before they set out on a 5K in their honor.

Wendy Clements wasn’t with her friend Theresa Panter this time around.

The two ran the Boston Marathon together in 2007; well, Panter finished well ahead of her, but they started together, Clements joked. The two have run numerous marathons together, and Clements said she has known Panter “umpteen” years.

But Tuesday evening, Panter was on a plane back from Boston after a whirlwind of media interviews, and Clements was running a 5-kilometer road race in Gainesville in honor of all the victims of Monday’s bombing in Boston.

Panter was rounding the corner to the finish line when the bomb went off, and her husband, an ER physician and “her biggest fan,” found himself trying to save a young woman who is among the three who died. Since the incident, they appeared on countless media outlets telling their story.

“I didn’t get to finish, but that doesn’t matter,” she told The Times on Tuesday. She said she was just ready to get home.

Allan Panter described a bloody scene that afternoon with many people with leg injuries, some missing limbs. He also said he had ringing in his ears. More than 170 were injured.

One of those who died was an 8-year-old boy.

Rebekah Rico, who participates in a Gainesville fitness group called Average Joe Fitness, organized the 5K that drew Clements and a small crowd of others. Rico has a son, Isaiah, who is 8, and the news of the boy who died “crushed my heart,” she said.

When she saw a friend in Atlanta organizing something similar, she said she thought it was a great idea and she wanted to run with her son in memory of the boy who died.

Clements was emotional as she described the support that boy and others were providing to the Boston Marathon runners, who must meet stringent time requirements based on their age group in order to participate.

“For 26.2 miles, there’s not a moment on that route that those people don’t support you,” she said. “I mean anywhere from five to 50 people deep, and it’s just so supportive and they’re just so excited. They understand what it takes to qualify.”

Ron Combs, who leads the fitness group, said he doesn’t think he could qualify for the Boston Marathon, though he has run one marathon and some half marathons.

Like most of America, he said he was horrified when he saw the news. He also knew how hard those runners worked to get there. He described the running community as very tight-knit.

As he talked about not being able to qualify for the Boston race, Clements encouraged him, that yes, he could. She didn’t think she could qualify either, she said.

As the group finished their run in front of the old Green Street Pool, those who had finished cheered on those who were still running, clapping and giving high fives.

Rico said the boy who died was definitely in her mind as she finished.

“I wanted to finish with (my son) because that was meaningful to me,” she said. Another family doesn’t have that ability anymore, she said.

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