Stories from the Rockford Marathon

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- More than 1,200 people packed into downtown Rockford for the city's annual marathon. Among the runners were two local athletes who crossed the finish line in Boston last month around the time of the bombing.

The race holds special meaning for every one of the 1,200 registered runners. For some it's their first attempt at a 26 point two mile race.

"I wish it had been bit cooler but it was our first one and we feel great,” says 1st time marathoner Ashley Ovaska.

For others it's a day to bond with friends.

”We're doing this for Monica's 30th birthday. So I decided to run with her for her birthday," says 10K runner Stephanie Fink, standing alongside birthday girl Monica Pluta.

For Jen Black and Tara Sheetz, it's a chance to move forward after crossing the finish line around the time of the Boston Marathon bombings.

"I just think it's kind of neat for both of us to get out there, we’re showing our support for the Boston people, we're showing that we can get out there and run again," says Jen Black.

“To me, it’s about moving forward. There's a lot of bad in this world but there's also a lot of good and a lot of people have reached out," says Tara Sheetz, who was feet away from the bomb blasts in Boston.

Security was beefed up at the start and finish of the race as well as along the entire route. Multiple departments were on hand to keep runners safe, which meant athletes could focus on their race while the cheerleaders could focus on cheering.

Scott Swanson played music from “Rocky” while his daughter raced, and at times he even took his handmade sign and joined her on the course. Husbands came to cheer on wives, wives cheered on husbands, and perfect strangers cheered for everyone. About 200 volunteers pitched in on race day.

Black managed to take first place among the female masters, while Sheetz broke her Boston Marathon time, as well as the fear that had plagued her since the bombings.

Sheetz’s daughter also raced in support of her mom.


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