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Buffalo race aims to show running as a means of support

Marathon runners keep running. That’s what they do. They run up hills, in snowstorms and heat waves and through blisters, bloody toenails and stomach eruptions. They’re a hardy, determined lot.

That’s why the Boston Marathon explosions Monday aren’t likely to knock local marathon runners off course.

Now, as the reality of the Boston tragedy sets in, some runners think that the camaraderie of the long-distance running community could even boost numbers for the May 26 Buffalo Marathon, as a tribute to Boston and its victims.

Even before that, a local solidarity run for the Boston victims and runners already has been planned. It starts at 9 a.m. Sunday in Delaware Park.

“I might do the full 26.2 [miles],” said organizer Julia Burke, who had planned on an 18-mile training run for that day. “It would be a tribute to the Boston Marathon runners and runners everywhere.”

Like other races around the nation, next month’s Buffalo Marathon promises to have beefed-up security in the wake of the Boston killings.

And while some runners won’t return to the Boston Marathon, others vow to put on their running shoes again next year, to make a powerful statement.

“I would run it again, and I’d run in honor of the spectators who died, the individuals who were hurt and lost limbs and all those whose loved ones were affected,” said Katie Siwy, a Boston resident and West Seneca native who was taken off the course just past the 25-mile mark Monday.

“I think the majority of people probably would run it again,” she added, though she admitted that she remained rattled Tuesday.

Siwy cited a neglected point in Monday’s massive coverage of the tragedy: While friends and loved ones of the runners could keep track of the runners’ progress digitally, many runners didn’t know whether their supporters were OK. Her parents, Charles and Judy Siwy, and a cousin, Tiffany Carrow, were delayed somewhat getting to the finish line.

“They could track me, but in my head, they were down there [at the finish line] waiting for me to finish,” she said.

Patricia Lawley, a mother of five from Eggertsville, finished the race five or six minutes before she heard the big bang and saw smoke from the first explosion.

A woman next to her thought it might have been some kind of cannon fire related to Patriots Day.

And then, just like the events of Sept. 11, Lawley heard the second bang and knew it wasn’t a ceremonial cannon shot.

The chaotic aftermath has Lawley thinking twice about returning to such a large marathon as Boston’s.

“Probably not,” she said Tuesday. “Just because my kids were there, and we were all shaken up – all those visual images. I kept thinking about 9/11.”

She said she’d feel more comfortable running a smaller race, like the Buffalo Marathon.

As runners weigh the risks and rewards of running Boston, or any marathon, more than 240 people already have said they plan to participate in Sunday’s Boston Marathon Solidarity Run in Delaware Park.

Burke, who honored Hurricane Sandy victims with a Delaware Park run after the New York City Marathon was canceled last November, was driving back Monday from a half-marathon in Michigan when she heard about Boston. It didn’t take long for her to come up with the plan for Sunday’s tribute.

Burke, associate editor of Buffalo Spree magazine, is training for the Buffalo Marathon. She’s asking anyone who wants to participate to join her starting at 9 a.m. in the park, at the Meadow Road shelter, and run any distance.

“Our goal is to raise money for the Red Cross, because they’re first responders, but also to encourage people to give blood,” she said.

Last November, about 200 people joined Burke during her 15 laps around Delaware Park. That event raised at least $5,000 for the Red Cross hurricane- relief efforts.

Monday’s tragedy in Boston promises to have ripple effects on all marathons, especially with the targeting of spectators along such a long, open course.

But runners cited the clear distinction between the Boston and Buffalo events.

“The Boston Marathon is an international event, and it would be a prime target for a terrorist,” said John Beishline, the local marathon’s director. “Buffalo is more of a regional marathon, so we should be OK. But we’re going to do everything we can to make sure it’s safe.”

Like any security official, Beishline didn’t want to get into too many specifics, other than to say that the Buffalo Marathon, for the second straight year, will set up an emergency command center. Race officials also will meet to discuss possible measures to increase security.

One detail that might change will be the baggage check-in for runners who pack a bag with a change of clothes for after the race. Beishline wouldn’t provide any specifics.

Burke, the organizer of this Sunday’s run, said she wouldn’t be surprised if Buffalo attracted more runners after the Boston killings, because of the solidarity of the running community.

“This year, I know that everyone already running [Buffalo] will have Boston in their hearts,” she said.

And she believes the storied and precious history of the Boston Marathon will keep runners returning there.

“My heart breaks for Boston,” she said, “but I really think this will only make the support for Boston stronger.”