Before sunrise Saturday, Brian Coleman slipped on a pair of running shoes, grabbed his backpack and an American flag and headed to Trout Creek Park off Morris Bridge Road.
Coleman, a runner, is accustomed to leaving his Carrollwood home for early morning jaunts on running trails in far-flung parts of Hillsborough County. But this trek had added purpose.
“I wanted to show my patriotism and support for our running family in Boston,” Coleman said.
When he reached the park before 7 a.m., Coleman met more than 50 other runners and supporters of Run Tampa, an area running club, for a tribute run to support the Boston Marathon in the aftermath of the bombing.
“As a running community, it touched all of us. It hurt our hearts,” said Coleman, 41. “This is a way for us to come together in fellowship for those in Boston. This tragedy will not stop us.”
People nationwide have rallied around Boston since three people were killed and more than 200 others were injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the 26-mile road race on April 15.
Runners, like Coleman, felt particularly affected by the tragic event. They are responding in a big way.
“I am a patriotic American,” Coleman said. “When something happens to us … I stand for my country.”
Coleman, who is a pharmacy buyer for Florida Hospital Tampa, went to hospital administrators shortly after the incident to ask that the flag atop the hospital be lowered to half-staff in tribute to the Boston victims. They agreed, he said.
He also made sure to take the American flag in his office when he left work Friday.
Coleman tucked the stars and stripes into his backpack before the tribute run Saturday. It flapped in the breeze as Coleman completed a 7-mile run through a tree-lined conservation area off Morris Bridge Road east of Interstate 75 in less than an hour.
Running coach Debbie Voiles, the founder of Run Tampa, is the brainchild behind the tribute run called a “Run to Remember.” It was her way of helping area runners cope with the tragic events. She also wanted to support the city of Boston and honor those who were hurt or killed.
“Everyone in the running community was wounded,” by the event, said Voiles, who ran the Boston Marathon in 2008. “This is our most effective way to heal.”
Voiles knew several runners, including Run Tampa members, who participated in the marathon this year. She described the attack as a nightmare for the participants and their relatives and friends who were visiting Boston and back here at home.
Voiles depended on Facebook to find out all her friends were safe.
“We wanted to help in some kind of way, but we were so far away,” Voiles said.
She has been encouraging people to donate to One Fund Boston, the official fundraising campaign to benefit people affected by the bombings. Information about the fund drive is posted on the Run Tampa website www.runtampa.com.
Zoe Lang, 35, of Temple Terrace has raised more than $400 so far, she said. For Lang, the events of the Boston Marathon hit close to home. She lived in Massachusetts, including Boston, before she moved to Tampa in 2007.
Coleman also is doing his part. He created the bibs the Run Tampa runners and walkers wore pinned to their shirts on Saturday. Coleman designed them to say “4/15/13, Boston, Runners United to Remember.”
“I love running,” he said. “When that happened in Boston, it hurt everybody who runs and everybody who is an American patriot.
“We want to show our solidarity. We are all united.”