Local runners go the extra mile for Boston victims

LEWISTOWN – Scott Falkner has covered a lot of miles in his life as a long distance runner.

But, the run on April 15, 2013, will be one that he will remember for the rest of his life.

Because it was on that day in Boston, a marathon race became part of American history.

Two bombs were set off near the finish line and three people were killed with many more injured.

Falkner and his brother-in-law, Dick Yearick, had finished the race less than an hour before the blast.

Now, to honor those victims and to raise money for them, a relay race is in progress from California to Boston. The race started on June 9 and is expected to end in Boston around Sunday.

Falkner and another local runner, Gary Ishler, took part in the effort, “One Run for Boston”, as it passed through Mifflin County Thursday. Middleburg resident Denya Burris partnered with runners from Evendale, Selinsgrove and Harrisburg for a leg that carried the baton from Beaver Springs to Middleburg.

Falkner said other local runners were welcome to take part in the run, but legs were assigned by runners signing up through the event website.

Each part of the race is 10 to 13 miles long. Falkner’s leg was from outside State College to Greenwood Furnace. The relay went through Mifflin County with other legs from Greenwood Furnace to Reedsville; Reedsville to Alfarata and Alfarata to McClure, and from there continued north through western Snyder County to Selinsgrove, then crossed the Susquehanna River at Sunbury.

Ishler is one who ran alongside the designated runner in the Mifflin County leg that followed Falkner’s. Ishler ended up playing a more significant role when he worked with the assigned runner, Megan Capuano from western Pennsylvania, to modify the route they used to get to Reedsville for safety reasons.

At the end of Ishler’s section of the run, Gary Grobman, a teacher and author from Harrisburg took over. He was in the finish area in Boston when the bombs went off.

Falkner still has a vivid memory of that day.

“It was chaos,” Falkner said, “I had a building between me and the blast. I had been finished for about 40 minutes and Dick had just came in behind me. We could smell (the blast) and see all the emergency vehicles coming in.”

Long distance running for Falkner and his family is nothing new. In fact, it has been a big part of their lives.

His son, Chris, will be a senior on the Mifflin County cross country team this fall. His wife Stacey, also is a runner.

Stacey helped coach track and field at Lewistown Area High School along with her brother, Dick Yearick. Scott also coached track and field and was the Panthers cross country coach when Lewistown and Indian Valley merged.

When Dick Yearick was the coach at Lewistown, he coached a state champion in the hurdles, Emily Lepley Shank. And when Yearick was in high school, he finished fifth in the long jump his senior year (1968) for Kishacoquillas.

Needless to say, training for long distance runs and the two sports of cross country and track and field have long been in the blood lines of the Falkners.

However, getting ready for the relay was just another day of running for Scott.

“It will be tough with all the hills,” Falkner said before the event. “It’s nice that it is going right through Mifflin County. I plan to run a half-marathon even before the relay.”

The leg after Grobman handed off the baton in Alfarata crossed into Snyder County, and another runner carried it from McClure to Beaver Springs, where Burris took over.

Burris, a 2006 graduate of Midd-West High School who played soccer for the Mustangs and its predecessor Middleburg, and coached at both her alma mater and East Juniata, ran a half marathon for the first time in March.

“When I found out about the Boston bombings it really motivated me to run a whole marathon,” she said – and when she heard about this effort on Facebook, decided to pitch in.

“I was thrilled that something this would go right through my hometown,” she said.

Candy Hoffman of Evendale represented Juniata County on Burris’ leg of the run.

The Falkners and the Yearicks were near the epicenter when the Boston blast occurred.

Now Scott is going to run so that the injured may someday walk and run again.