Essay leads to moving tribute for Boston Marathon victim

Flowers and items are left in memory of graduate student Lu Lingzi, who was killed during the Boston Marathon bombings.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images


(This is the fourth installment in our series at on what the Boston bombing means to more than two dozen people directly affected at last year’s marathon. So 2014 is the comeback, because 2013 was the knockdown. Read their stories.)

As they do every weekday during the school year, thousands of people affiliated with Boston University woke up to an email on Jan. 30 from BU Today – the institution’s newsletter.

Alongside the usual featured video and above the listing of coming events, though, was the teaser to an article that told of a coveted opportunity for members of the BU community – a chance to run the Boston Marathon in memory of Lu Lingzi, a graduate student from China who died during the attacks at the finish line of last year’s race.

The email’s link led to a full story detailing how the Boston Athletic Association gave the Lu family 15 spots in the 2014 Marathon in honor of their daughter. The Lu family gifted five of those bibs to the university.

Unlike the usual Boston Marathon requirements, applicants did not need to meet a specific qualifying time, nor did they need to raise a certain amount of money for a charity. Instead, they were instructed to write an essay or submit a video statement about what running the marathon in Lu’s honor would mean to them. Applicants had nine days to complete the task.

Shuheng Lin

Shuheng Lin, a student working toward a doctoral degree in economics, did not know Lu personally, but she knew that she needed to apply. Lin struggled, however, with what she should write about.

“I didn’t know immediately what running meant for me and how I was going to connect to honoring her via this event,” Lin said. “I thought the most fitting thing to do was go out for a run and think about it. … There were a lot of thoughts going through [my head], and by the end of it I knew just where I wanted to start the statement.”

Lin wrote a rough draft of her essay, then, two days later, she pulled up the YouTube video of Lu’s father, Lu Jun, eulogizing his daughter at a service held on BU’s campus a week after Lingzi was killed in the attack. In the video, Lu Jun walks up onto a stage in front of a community of 1,200 that came to remember his daughter. Speaking in Chinese and attempting to hold back his emotions by dabbing at his face with a handkerchief, Lu detailed his daughter’s love for music and food.

“Alas, she is gone; how can our living move on?” Lu said. “She is gone, but our memories of her are very much alive.”

After a translation of the eulogy was read, the entire Lu family stood and turned toward those gathered in the room and bowed to them.

Lin became emotional while watching the video. As an international student who moved to the United States from Ping Shan, China, in 2002, she understood the fear that comes with living thousands of miles away from family.

Boston Marathon Tribute

“You could just tell that she’s such a joy to everybody and her father cared for her a lot,” Lin said. “I come from a very loving family as well. Whenever something happens on the West Coast, my dad will give me a call – ‘Hey, I saw a fire in California, are you OK?’

“I think these are things all the parents who have their children abroad think about. … You can’t get to her immediately if she needs your help.”

That surge of emotions helped Lin to complete her statement, and the next day she recorded a video to go along with it. In her statement, Lin talked about how the city of Boston came together to heal and how the Lu family shared their beautiful daughter’s soul with the city after the attacks.

On Feb. 12, the university announced that they had chosen seven runners – a number expanded from the original five – out of 211 essays. Lin, who had spent an entire day refreshing her email waiting to find out her fate, received a phone call that she was one of the selected runners.

“Whether I was chosen or not, the process of applying for it had actually helped me come to the realization – help me break down – what running actually means to me,” Lin said. “It brings back a lot of memories, brings back all the individuals who have helped me.”

Lin has marathon experience. In 2012, her 10th year living in the country, Lin decided to run the Chicago Marathon as a way to show her appreciation toward all the individuals who helped her adapt to the new culture.

While running her first marathon, Lin listened to a playlist of songs that symbolized different people and memories from her time in the country. The first song on the list was The Foundations’ “Build Me Up Buttercup” — the first English song she learned.

In the weeks leading up to the marathon, Lin, as well as the other six runners chosen to receive the honorary bibs, will raise money for the Lu Lingzi Memorial Scholarship Fund. Lin understands that for many college students, donating money can be a challenge, so she has set up two alternative ways for people support her efforts – they can either pledge to run a certain amount of miles or they can suggest a song for her marathon playlist.

“It becomes something of a group effort,” Lin said.

As she trained for the race, Lin came to find the lasting connection between her appreciation for running and her desire to honor Lu’s adventurous spirit.

“When you go to a different country, you have to adapt to a complete new set of rules,” Lin said. “You have to learn to overcome language barriers and these difficulties take a lot of patience and tenacity and that was something that I think it takes to train and run a marathon. … It seemed like the perfect combination, or at least very fitting from my perspective, that to honor her would be to run.”

If you would like to contribute to the Run With Me for Lingzi fund, please click here.