Wisconsin News

Boston Marathoners run in Festival Foods Grandad Half Marathon

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Thousands of runners from all across the tri-state area came together for the fifth annual Festival Foods Grandad Half Marathon Saturday morning.

The course took runners down Bliss Road and through La Crosse's south side as they headed towards the finish line at Riverside Park.

The race comes almost three weeks after the tragedy at the Boston Marathon where bombs exploded at the finish line.

It led local organizers to take extra safety precautions for the race.

There was a volunteer and police officer stationed at every intersection of the course.

Bomb-sniffing dogs also walked the course before the race started.


"I would say we were in the neighborhood of doubling  what we had last year (security), and considering that we don't have a full marathon this year, that's quite a bit," said Jay Odegaard, an event organizer. "So we wanted to take all the precautions necessary and we've got a great day."

Racers observed a moment of silence before the race to honor those affected by the Boston Bombings.

For some Boston marathoners,  this was their first race since being in Boston.

In the sea of racers at the start of the race, some runners wore the iconic blue and yellow Boston Marathon colors proudly.

"I actually was one of the people who didn't finish," said runner Sally Hartman of Milwaukee.

Hartman was about a mile away from finishing her second Boston Marathon race when the unthinkable happened.

"(At) mile 25, somebody in front of me stopped and held up a cellphone and said, 'The race is over. There have been some bombs at the finish line,'" said Hartman. "The excitement changed to a lot of sadness with the tragedy that when on."

She, like thousands of runners, never finished the race that day.

Unfinished business is also what brought Sean Ryan of Green Bay to La Crosse for the race.

"There's a lot of people looking to make up for the run that they never finished and I guess I'm one of them," said Ryan.

In true runner's form, Ryan is wasn't racing alone, but with former Boston Marathon runner Jeff Poppele.

"Our hearts go out to the people that were injured and killed out there," said Poppele. "Throughout the years, we've always run together for the training run. So we just have the same pace and we just have a good time. It makes the time go by quick when we're running together."

So while every step these runners took brought them closer to the finish line, it also brought them closer to healing.

"Running is an individual sport, but when you're all out here together, you feel like you're a part of one community," said Ryan. "One of the things that's special about recognizing what happened in Boston is it's brought all of us together and reminded us that we're all part of one big community."

The runners said they will want to go back to Boston sometime in the future to race again.

Many participants and spectators also wore yellow and blue bracelets in support of the Boston Marathon.

People could buy them for $2 with the proceeds going to One Fund Boston, a charity that is helping the people most affected by the tragedy.

Tristan Coughlin, a La Crosse native who now lives in Milwaukee, won this year's race with a time of 1:11.

This was his first time running in this race.

He said the unexpected win was a nice surprise.

" I felt good because the first 3 miles were straight downhill, so you feel really really fast," said Coughlin. "I thought it would catch up with me and it did, but the cool wind helps you a little bit. It was nice. I felt really good. It was fun."

About 1,300 people ran the race.

Roughly 5,000 participants in total took part in all of Saturday's events including the 5k run/walk, the bike tours and youth races.

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