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Barr, others running Boston Marathon 1 year after tragedy

(Reuters photo)

There’s a small road race in Boston today.

So small that millions will have their eyes on Amy (Young) Barr and the other 36,000 runners.

For the first time, the Mitchell High School graduate is running the prestigious Boston Marathon — a major event that was disrupted by two consecutive explosions last April. The pair of bombs went off near the finish line on Boylston Street, killing three and injuring 264.

“I am a little nervous about this year’s marathon,” said Barr, 41, who lives in Sioux Falls. “I have been watching the news, and they say they are confident that they have all the security measures in place. I am more concerned for my husband and my son.”

Barr’s husband, Charles, and 11-year-old son, Andrew, are accompanying her on the trip and will watch from the sidelines.

Barr, who will run in her “Run to Honor” shirt to support all of the fallen midshipmen who are graduates of the United States Naval Academy, is one of 35 runners representing South Dakota in today’s marathon, including Thomas Madut, of Mitchell, and Kathryn Merrill, of Wagner.

A runner must qualify for the Boston Marathon, unlike most marathons around the country, and not all marathon events are Boston qualifying races.

This year, there are 36,000 runners, which is 9,000 more than in 2013. More entries were considered because there were runners who were unable to finish last year’s race because of the bombings near the finish line. In addition, 1 million spectators are expected to roam the sidelines during the 26.2-mile race, according to The Boston Globe.

The sixth time was the charm for Barr as she finally qualified for Boston. Qualifying for the race one year after the attack doesn’t matter to Barr, as long as she’s competing.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Barr, who qualified at the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., in June. “If I don’t run this year, I can’t run next year because my time won’t be any good.”

In Duluth, Barr, who began running marathons in 1999, ran a time of three hours, 42 minutes and 26 seconds. The basic qualifying time, which is based off age and gender and can change from year to year, for the women’s 40 to 44 age group was 3:45.00. Barr, who was 40 at the time, made the mark by just over two minutes.

Despite finishing ahead of the qualifying time, Barr sweated it out to find out whether or not she would be in the field. She received an email in November and was overcome with jubilation.

“I was excited when I got the email. I fell into tears,” she said. “When you run your time, you don’t know that you qualify. You have to send your time in and the race director in Boston figures out the field, and then they let you know if you are in.”

In high school, Barr played basketball and competed in track and field for the Kernels, helping the girls basketball team to a state title in 1990 before graduating in 1991. After graduation, she competed track and field for Augustana College.

Unlike Barr, Merrill and Madut, a former Dakota Wesleyan University standout, are returning runners from last year’s field. Neither runner was harmed in last year’s explosions.

“I was nearby, but I wasn’t there when the explosions happened. I couldn’t see what happened either because of how many tall buildings were around,” said Madut, who also ran Boston in 2012. “I think coming back to the race for anyone who was there last year shows braveness.”

Madut also ran at Dakota Wesleyan University, where he was an NAIA national meet qualifier in 2008 and 2009.

Because of last year’s bombings, security measures have been heightened. There is a no-bag policy, which means no bags are allowed near the start of the race in Hopkinton, Mass., at the finish in Boston or along the course. In addition, containers with more than 1 liter of liquid, costumes covering the face and bulky clothes, such as vests with pockets, are not allowed.

The first leg of competitors begins at 8:50 a.m. EST.