Saturday April 20, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Those who did not finish the Boston Marathon Monday are invited to run for free in The Shires of Vermont Marathon on May 19.

"Anyone who was unable to finish in Boston is welcome in Vermont," said Shires Race Director Robert Pini. "We will gladly support them and celebrate when they finish here."

Two explosions near the Boston race’s finish line killed three people and wounded more than 140. As of press time, a manhunt was underway for one of the people suspected of being involved in the blasts while police have said the other suspect is dead.

Pini said normally runners in the Shires marathon must pay a registration fee of $80, but that fee is being waived for anyone who can show they were in the Boston Marathon. He said it is largely an honor system and those wanting to run can provide their bib number so it can be cross-referenced.

Details on how to register can be found at www.ShiresofVermontMarathon.com. Pini said electronic registration and registration through the mail are the two ways people can sign up.

This is the third year the Shires marathon has been held. It benefits United Counseling Service, which uses the funds raised to help children and families. "This year were are on track to have between 400 and 425 registrations," said Pini, who is also communications director for UCS. The race typically generates $15,000, he said.

He plans to spread word of the invitation to Boston Marathon runners through running clubs and hopes both locals who were in the marathon as well as people from other parts of the country show up. He said running the Boston Marathon and finishing is important for those who participate and the invitation to run in the Shires is to show solidarity. "There is, in each of those people, a desire to have finished," he said.

"My heart went out to the families who were involved in the tragedy," Pini said. "I hope this helps runners to finish the race, close the loop, and move on."

The Shires of Vermont Marathon begins at the Bennington Center for the Arts, crosses the Silk Road Bridge, goes across Bennington College’s campus and through North Bennington where it meets Route 7A and heads over the dirt roads of Shaftsbury and Arlington before ending at Hildene in Manchester. It is a full 26.2 mile marathon.

"Boston runners should bring their Boston jackets and logo gear and wear them proudly in celebration," Pini said.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.