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No fear for runners as Boston nears

04/18/2014, 12:09am EDT
By Dave Hackenberg Blade Sports Columnist

Two local runners were sitting at a sports bar in March of 2013, shortly after completing a half-marathon.

“You know,” one said, “if we work a little harder, I bet we could do Boston next year.”

To a runner, doing Boston is like a club golf pro qualifying for the U.S. Open. It’s Wimbledon. It’s the Super Bowl. There was nothing modest about this goal.

So the two runners went to work. Then, at about 2:50 on the afternoon of April 15, long after the lead runners had completed the Boston Marathon but with more than 5,000 others still on the course and bearing down on Boylston Street, two explosions rocked the finish line and America was again reminded of the black-hearted evil some happily direct at our country.

“We bawled our eyes out,” said Victoria Dugger, a colleague at The Blade and one of those two runners who made Boston, 2014, their goal. “It was devastating. This is our sport and it was attacked. People just like us were there, not only runners but spectators and supporters, too.

“Yeah, it really affected runners. It is a special community. You run in the park and others wave, acknowledging your pain and your triumphs. We’re tight even if we don’t know each other by name. So there was a lot of shock that anybody would dream to do something like this to such a storied event.”

The bombing and the subsequent manhunt brought Boston to a standstill and mesmerized those of us watching from afar. To Dugger and her friend and running partner McKenzie Smith — they call themselves the Sole Sisters — it transformed qualifying for 2014 from a mere goal to a must-do mission.

Within a couple weeks, the mission was accomplished as both qualified with personal records at the Glass City Marathon. Both will be in Massachusetts on Monday to run in the 118th Boston Marathon.

For Dugger, who said she once faked a hamstring pull to avoid finishing an 800-meter race while at Bellevue High School, there was once an obvious distaste for distance running. In 2007, when she “was pushing 30,” Victoria and her husband, Brian, decided running would be their path to better fitness.

They ran a 5K at the Toledo Zoo early that year and when Brian started talking about doing a marathon his wife just laughed. By October they were entered in the Detroit Marathon and Victoria remembers crossing in about 4 hours, 45 minutes. Less than six years later her qualifying time for Boston was 3:34.31.

You might say Dugger has become a fanatic. It didn’t hurt when she met Smith in January of last year and found “a sister of the heart through running.” Now, they are ready to join a couple dozen Toledo-area runners in Monday’s race.

Neither has been there before, but they’ve studied replays of previous races and examined via computer the course’s considerable elevation changes.

So there is excitement, but there is no fear.

“Well, I’m a little afraid of the hills,” Dugger said. “But I trust that Boston and its citizens are prepared for this and everyone will be vigilant. This is all I wanted, to be a part of this, after what happened last year. They can’t keep a group of runners, or any American, down.

“[Terrorists] want us scared. This had the opposite effect. It made us all closer and stronger. Whatever they were hoping to accomplish, they failed.”

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: or 419-724-6398.

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