One of the many amazing stories to come out of the Boston Marathon tragedy is that of the blood-donating runners. In case you haven’t read about it, many of the runners finished a grueling 26.2 miles (or close to it), then kept on running to the hospital to give blood, even in their depleted states.
Because we could all use an extra dose of humanity this week, here are eight other feel-good stories about runners.
1. A helping hand
In December 2012, Kenyan Abel Mutai was the first to cross the finish line of a cross-country race in Burlada, Spain. At least, he thought he crossed the finish line. Ivan Fernandez Anaya, a Spanish competitor who was right behind Mutai, knew better. Mutai had pulled up a little short of the finish line, but instead of taking advantage of the situation and plowing right back him, Anaya used gestures to urge Mutai forward to complete his rightful first place finish.
“I didn’t deserve to win it,” Anaya said afterward. “I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed if he hadn’t made a mistake.”
2. First place finish
Exhausted from a previous race, a high school track star from Ohio was in last place in a 3,200-meter race last year when she saw the competitor in front of her start to fall just a few meters from the finish. Though runners can be disqualified for physically helping other runners, Meghan Vogel put her arm around Arden McMath and helped carry her to the end—even making sure that McMath crossed first. “It's strange to have people telling me that this was such a powerful act of kindness and using words like 'humanity,’” Vogel said. “When I hear words like that I think of Harriet Tubman and saving people's lives. I don't consider myself a hero. I just did what I knew was right and what I was supposed to do.”
3. World's Best Dad
This story is not about a runner doing something nice for someone else, but rather someone doing something touching for a runner. Derek Redmond (above) was just over halfway through a 400m race at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona when his hamstring popped. As the medical staff showed up with a stretcher for them, Redmond waved them away, determined to finish the race. While he limped slowly toward the finish line in incredible pain, his father fought his way down through the stands, leapt over the railing that divided spectators from competitors, and outran security guards trying to chase him down. About 120 meters from the finish, Jim Redmond caught up to his son, put his arms around him and helped him most of the rest of the way. About two steps from the line, Jim let go so Derek could finish on his own. “I'm the proudest father alive," Jim said afterward. "I'm prouder of him than I would have been if he had won the gold medal. It took a lot of guts for him to do what he did."
4. Catch you when you fall
Last month, Michael Stefanon was coming down the final stretch of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Washington, D.C., when he spotted a slower runner ahead of him and thought he could probably pass him. As Stefanon went to pass, the man staggered backward. Stefanon caught him, saying, “We are going to do this together,” and mostly carried the exhausted runner 15 yards to the finish line. The runner, Ryan Gregg, said he was especially grateful for the help because his two young sons were watching him run a marathon for the first time and he didn’t want them to see their dad quitting.
Stefanon was proud of the example he set for his sons as well:
“That experience reminds me of something very similar that I preach to my boys at bedtime when we are saying our prayers,” he told Runner’s World. “We ask that we can be touched in a way that we may help others in need, and put others before ourselves. I feel as though I was the fortunate one in this instance, as my two sons (5 and 8) were able to see the entire event unfold before their eyes.”
5. A marathon of support
When the New York Marathon was canceled last fall due to Hurricane Sandy, many runners regrouped and organized themselves into volunteer squads. Wearing their orange marathon shirts, the runners brought backpacks full of supplies to Staten Island, helped with cleaning efforts and handed out water.
6. Never too late to start
Think you’re too old to start running? Or too out-of-shape? Look to Margaret Hagerty for inspiration. The 90-year-old marathon runner holds the Guinness Record for “oldest person to complete a marathon on each of the seven continents,” which she achieved at the age of 81. Hagerty took up running when she was 64 to try to help her quit smoking. Though she believes that everyone should experience the Great Wall of China Marathon, her personal favorite is the grueling “Arctic Marathon.”
7. I'll Carry You
Then-high school junior Josh Ripley was in the first mile of a two-mile cross-country meet when he heard a fellow runner scream. He found competitor Mark Paulauskas badly bleeding from the ankle and discovered that he had been “spiked,” or injured by someone else’s metal-spiked tracked shoes. Ripley carried the injured runner for half of a mile to get him back to his coach, then went on to finish his race. Paulauskas needed more than 20 stitches.
8. Taking a Stroller
Iram Leon was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in November 2010. Not wanting to give up running or time with his 6-year-old daughter, Leon decided to combine the two. So far, he’s run six marathons while pushing daughter Kiana in a stroller.
Leon and Kiana most recently completed the Gusher Marathon in Texas in three hours, seven minutes and 35 seconds—good enough for a first-place finish.
"This is supposed to eat away at my memory in the end," Leon said. “But I hope this memory is one of the last things to go and one she never loses."
A college fund for Kiana has been started here.