ODU Employee's ‘Run for Boston’ Campaign Goes Viral

Becca Obergefell

2013-04-17

The bombings that occurred at the Boston Marathon on April 15 were tragic, senseless and shocking. Millions of people watched in horror as one explosive, then a second, detonated near the race’s finish line, killing three and injuring hundreds of innocent bystanders. 

One of those watching in disbelief was Becca Obergefell, assistant director of the Center for Student Development at Ohio Dominican University. Though nearly 800 miles from Boston in Columbus, Ohio, she knew she had to help; she just didn’t know how. 

As is the case in so many tragedies, when the smoke cleared, a silver lining began to emerge. It came in the form of an outpouring of support from around the world. 

It would have been natural to feel helpless; however, Obergefell felt empowered to help. 

Upon hearing of the explosions, she, like many, turned to Twitter and used the #RunForBoston hashtag to show her support and sympathy for the victims of the bombings and the city of Boston. 

“I was watching Twitter and people were talking about how they wanted to run for Boston,” she said. 

She then turned to Google and a smartphone app, “Charity Miles,” which donates 25 cents per mile to a charity selected by the runner. By midnight on Monday, she had created a Google doc, “Run for Boston.” 

Though simple in nature, its impact has been profound, as demonstrated by the powerful and heartfelt sentiments expressed by running enthusiasts. 

“In the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon we were left wanting to join together to show our support,” Obergefell writes on the page. “Some of us are runners, some are joggers, some are walkers, and some are lacing up for the first time; all of us want to #RunForBoston. These miles aren't about raising money, but about showing our support for the runners, families, rescuers, and Bostonians. They are about being a part of something bigger than ourselves and being a part of a community.” 

“It’s just showing Boston that we’re running for them, and whatever we can do, people are thinking of them,” she said. “It’s about the compassion and the empathy that goes along with it, whether you know someone or not.” 

Participants also are encouraged to share the reasons they are running. 

“It’s incredibly inspiring,” said Obergefell.  “I’m so interested in peoples’ stories as it is, and it has been amazing to read what people are writing. Reasons they are running include everything from ‘I’ve never run before and this is my first time, but I feel called to,’ to ‘I’m a marathoner. I was there or my son was there,’ or ‘I just needed to.’ It’s been just a beautiful outpouring of stories.” 

Initially, she shared the page with her followers and social media sites for runners.  

Not only did it catch on, it went viral. 

In a matter of hours, runners and walkers from the United States and around the globe were logging their runs and, at the same time, showing solidarity. In fact, not even two days after she created the page, approximately 2,000 people had already logged nearly 8,000 miles. 

“I’ve heard from people in Hong Kong, England, Canada, Brazil, Mexico,” she said. “It’s growing constantly.” 

Her efforts have been highlighted by national news outlets, such asNBC News, CNN i-Reportand The Huffington Post . 

“I had no idea it would be of this scope, but I feel so blessed that it is because the idea was that it would bring people together over this tragedy and the extra wattage of this is just really spreading the message even further and showing the support for Boston in a much larger level.”