Long before day breaks this morning, runners with a purpose are scheduled to cut across Cambria County and into Blair County and beyond as part of the One Run for Boston relay.
Ethan Imhoff of Hollidaysburg, executive director of the Cambria County Planning Commission, and Ben Mazur of Hollidaysburg will take the symbolic baton from Kristen Gill of Hollidaysburg.
She will be running into Cambria County from west of Jackson Township and will hand off the baton to Imhoff at the convenience store at Route 22 and South Center Street in Cambria Township.
A runner for two decades, Imhoff plans to run the 6.5-mile stretch along old Route 22 to Cresson and hand off the baton to Jason Williamson of Cresson at Admiral Peary Park, just west of Cresson Borough.
Williamson was to be joined by more than a dozen runners as he takes the baton down the mountain into Blair County to Duncansville, where the baton will be passed to another set of runners for the next leg.
The goal is to have the baton in Boston by Sunday, 23 days after it left Los Angeles, to conclude the 3,000-mile trek.
Each of the runners participating in the relay paid a $50 entry fee.
By late Wednesday, more than $60,000 had been raised to benefit the victims injured or killed and their families in two bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15.
“To think that they ran through the desert and everything, that’s so neat,” Gill said of the runners who have already carried the symbolic GPS-equipped baton.
Gill has been a marathon runner for a couple of years. She did not participate in this year’s Boston Marathon, but she has a friend who did.
Her friend arrived at the finish line 10 minutes before the bombs exploded.
“That was an impetus to me, to participate in this,” Gill said about the relay.
Imhoff, a runner for more than two decades, crossed the finish line 90 minutes before the bomb blasts.
“I ran my best time. It was a great day,” he said.
After Imhoff completed the race, he and his family returned to their motel room and were in a restaurant when they finally found out about the bombings.
“We could hear it, but it was just some disturbance, urban noise or a dump truck,” Imhoff said.
They were told to leave the restaurant because the establishment was closing.
Their plans to stay another three days and visit the city were canceled when the Boston area was virtually shut down. The streets were empty except for a large presences of authorities, Imhoff said.
“The city was just one big crime scene,” he said.
The response by runners to rapidly organize the relay and the wide participation nationwide is incredible, he said.
“Since I had run my best (at the marathon) I felt a special link,” Imhoff said.
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