Boston hosts first race since bombing

Boston has been taking steps to recovery after the marathon bombing. On Saturday, it regains its stride.

The Fourth Annual Red Sox Foundation Run-Walk to Home Base descends on Fenway Park. Between runners, walkers and spectators, the event is expected to draw roughly 4,000 people. The annual run is a massive fundraiser for the Home Base Program, which provides assistance to veterans with brain injuries and PTSD and support to their families.

This race will have an added emotional aspect. It is the largest gathering of runners since the tragedy on Marathon Monday, April 15. The race begins and ends at Fenway Park, which has become a symbol of Boston’s resilience and strength in the wake of the bombing.

“Fenway Park is a place that we all love,” said Brigadier General Jack Hammond, who is the executive director of the Home Base Program. “It’s so symbolically in tune with the people with Boston. When celebrations broke out after they caught the second (suspect), they broke out on Yawkey Way (just outside Fenway).”

Hammond knows a thing or two about combat. He has done several tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is the first Massachusetts National Guard officer to achieve the rank of general in a combat theater since World War II. Hammond is also a Massachusetts native and went to the University of Massachusetts.

But it isn’t just Fenway. It is the act of running, moving, gathering together in large groups for a greater good. And while the money raised goes to benefit veterans, the emotional benefit for the people who run and attend from all over the state and country is immeasurable. Little runs popped up all over Boston after the Marathon, people getting out and dealing with their fear and grief.

“This is the first time the people of Boston can really demonstrate their resolve in a physical presence by running and getting out there and running for a great cause,” Hammond said.

And they will.

One of the runners is Matt Perrault, who lives in New Hampshire, but was born on the North Shore of Massachusetts, attended the Commonwealth’s flagship university in Amherst and is currently the general manager of ESPN New Hampshire, so he’s about as passionate and tuned in to Bostonians as one can be.

“The city and the region has come together in such an amazing way that I know the race will be just another awesome event,” Perrault said, “like the first Bruins game and Red Sox game, that shows that we aren’t going to live our lives differently in the aftermath of the bombings.”

And this run, with thousands of legs striding down Memorial Drive, will continue to help bring the city back to a sense of normalcy. But it won’t be just the runners, but the spectators, the volunteers who are uniting as one. One Boston.

“Boston is a family … that’s a line that Chad Finn of the Boston Globe wrote in a piece on how the city has been impacted by the bombings and I couldn’t agree more. When one of us is hurt, we rally,” Perrault said.

And that is a poetic way to capture the way Boston is responding to its neighbors in need. Charity, collecting money for those so seriously injured that their medical bills will likely hit six figures. Even a nod and a smile to a stranger on the street. Strength. Kindness. Unity. That’s Boston.

In a stark contrast but no less moving, Red Sox fans, Bostonians, Massachusetts residents and General Hammond had a warm spot for how David Ortiz spoke at the first game after the attack at Fenway Park. Papi’s colorful language declared that the city belongs to the people.

“Just like Big Papi said. He characterized it pretty well,” Hammond said.

For information on how to contribute to Run To Home Base, click here. For information on One Boston, click here.

Elizabeth Nielsen is a freelance writer from New York City who loves all things baseball and Boston.