Boston Marathon runner finishes what he started

Boston marathon

UIC professor Ron Hershow, with his wife, Judy, and daughter, Rebecca, finishes the 2014 Boston Marathon. He was a mile from the finish line last year when the explosions occurred.

Ron Hershow has run 12 marathons, but his most recent — the 2014 Boston Marathon — may be the most gratifying.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that before. It seemed like the whole city was out there cheering. The last two miles, it was almost deafening,” said Hershow, professor and director of epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Public Health.

Hershow returned to Boston for the April 21 race to honor the victims of the 2013 bombings and finish the marathon he started one year earlier.

Cheered on by his daughter and wife, the 61-year-old Hershow finished in 5:00:37 — a little slower than he would have liked, but still an unforgettable experience, he says.

He was nearly a mile from the finish line last year when the explosions occurred. He had no idea anything was amiss.

“News did not filter back to me that something had happened so I just kept running,” Hershow said.

He noticed a few runners walking the wrong way on the course and remembers thinking, “Gee, they finished their race and now they’re blocking my path to the finish line.”

When the trickle of runners became a flood of people, Hershow stopped a fellow runner and learned why the race had been halted. For nearly 20 minutes, he used a borrowed cell phone to try contacting his wife Judy, who was waiting at the finish line with relatives.

Eventually, he reached her by text to hear that they were safe. He later learned that they had been standing near the site of the explosion, but moved across the street about 10 minutes before the bomb detonated.

“Had they been on the explosion side of the street, they may have been seriously injured or even killed,” said Hershow.  “I remember thinking how random things are and the ‘what ifs’ haunt me to this day.”

Hershow vowed to return to the race this year and find a way to give back.

A specialist in infectious disease epidemiology and HIV prevention, he ran to raise money for Grassroot Soccer, which promotes HIV/AIDs risk-reduction and gender equality in South Africa. His daughter, Rebecca, works for the nonprofit organization.

Hershow has raised more than $5,600 so far. Donations can still be made online.

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