Thousands of runners and walkers — of a variety of ages — cluttered the streets of Hartford not for just the exercise, a fast time, or the competitive nature of a race but, rather, a good cause, on March 23. They participated in the Hartford Marathon Foundation's Sandy Hook Run For The Families, a 5K race which was so much more than a race — a means for giving, remembering, and supporting those who have been through so much.
The event, held in honor of those lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre of December 14, pulled in $438,131 for Sandy Hook School Support Fund, and brought together community members, families, and friends, many of whom otherwise wouldn’t run.
Race registrations and donations, including those from businesses, accounted for the money raised, according to Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra who, after addressing the crowd, walked the course with Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson. They were part of Newtown officials contingent which included Police Chief Michael Kehoe, Reverend Matthew Crebbin of Newtown Congregational Church, and state representatives DebraLee Hovey (R-112), Dan Carter (R-2), and Mitch Bolinsky (R-106).
“It was quite memorable,” Llodra said. “It was very cheerful and very emotional watching this mass of humanity go by from all over the state.”
Participants formed teams, many wearing shirts honoring one of the 26 victims. Everybody was on one collective “team” of sorts for this event which started big and just got bigger.
Initially scheduled to be held in Danbury, the race was moved to Hartford because of the need to accommodate the high volume of registrants. The 15,000 participant cap was reached and close to 10,000 people attended and participated, according to Carl Strait, associate athletic director and physical education teacher at Newtown High School, one of the many to run. Strait noted that there were thousands of virtual runners who registered just to make the contribution, or perhaps couldn’t run at the changed location.
“The entire city of Hartford really went out of their way to make sure this race took place in the highest regard,” said Llodra, crediting Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, members of the governor’s office, police, and other officials on hand for ensuring that the race be a success.
Strait and his wife, Sara Strait, a Reed Intermediate School teacher/writing specialist, decided to not only participate but to get their coworkers and friends involved. They started with the goal of getting a minimum of 26 educators and their families and friends from each of the district’s seven schools to participate and contribute. Only a couple of days into their recruiting efforts, there were 100 and, within a week, 200 Newtown educators/family/friends signed up to take part. Carl Strait contacted Under Armour and got 300 shirt donations for the participants. The numbers kept growing and he got another 300 from Nike. Even that wasn’t enough. Strait said he felt badly that not everyone got a shirt. Even so, it stands to reason that the cause made this worthwhile for everyone who participated — shirt or no shirt, award for a fast finish or not.
This, after all, wasn’t about winning or shirts. It was about the families, honoring those who were lost, and raising money to help provide support services to the families and community members affected by the tragedy.
“It wasn’t about the first one across the line, or getting a personal best,” Carl Strait said. “It was just a huge outpouring of emotion and generosity.”