Warren County is ‘Boston Strong’ at Monday’s Boston Marathon

Warren County is playing a small part in today’s Boston Marathon.

But “Boston Strong” is playing a huge part in the lives and emotions of several Warren County runners today.

This kind of emotion explains the sheer volume of runners and spectators at Monday’s Boston Marathon. There are 9,000 more runners than last year (36,000 – the second largest group in the Boston Marathon’s 118-year history), and more than a million spectators are expected along the marathon route.

Runners like Ron Martin, Lincoln Sokolski, Scott Newton and Lonnie Heeter will be representing Warren County in the 26.2-mile race, and finishing at the very place where two homemade pressure-cooker bombs exploded last year, killing three people and injuring over 250.

While Newton will play a small part, he said the race and event has become a big part of him. Case in point: Newton’s first official marathon was earlier this year at The Run for the Red Pocono Marathon, a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.

“I really never took a whole lot of interest up until last year when Lonnie Heeter ran in (the Boston Marathon),” said Newton. “And when I saw what had happened, it was a little bit more close to home. I trained with him all year (for this race).

“Just watching that and the whole event as it transpired, it just angered me, I guess,” said Newton. “That is one of the reasons why I wanted to go out and run it – to prove that kind of stuff won’t stop me.”

In fact, it inspired him to run it for the first time.

“After the bombing happened, that gave me that extra motivation,” said Newton. “The running community, in itself, we have such a great running community in Warren, and I feel blessed to represent my running friends that helped to get me to this point. Lonnie actually helped to pace me to get me to this point.”

Heeter was not in a hurry to get back to the Boston Marathon, after completing his first one last year and hour before the bombs went off. He was even less enthused in an interview with the Times Observer later that day.

“I sometimes lose faith in humanity,” Heeter said on that fateful day in 2013. “Now, every event in this country, people are going to be looking over their shoulder.”

“That was my initial reaction,” Heeter said on Sunday, “and, now, I don’t feel that whatsoever. I feel safer than I’ve ever felt (in any race).

“It is the Super Bowl (of marathons) every year, and they just upped the ante this year,” he said. “You can notice the difference with the city. There’s another 9,000 runners this year, and nobody’s (running) scared.

“Within two or three days (of the tragedy), I thought, ‘You can’t let these gangsters, or whatever, interfere with your daily life,” he said. “Truthfully, had that not happened, I really wasn’t planning on coming back. I just thought there were things left unfinished.”

There will be stories of courage and resolve running all throughout the Boston Marathon, and Heeter hopes to run one day with his son.

This year, he’s running with Newton.

“It’s absolutely electric here,” said Newton, who said he’s never been to an event so much bigger than just a race, or even bigger than the Boston Marathon.

“It does feel like a family united for a cause,” he said. “You kind of feel like you’re running with and for everybody else. We run together.”

He said the Boston Marathon official T-shirt echoes that statement: “We run as one.”

“That’s the beauty of marathons,” he said. “I certainly feel small in the grand scheme, but absolutely I feel like I’m part of the voice…”

Like Newton said, they will be running “with and for everybody else,” including those who were killed and injured at last year’s event.

The Boston Athletic Association allowed the additional 9,000 runners this year, which also helps ensure that the thousands of runners who were still on the course when the blasts occurred get a chance to cross this finish line.

Many runners train for years to post the fast, age-graded qualifying times needed to earn a spot, while others commit to raising thousands of dollars for charity.

Martin, of Russell, ran the Boston Marathon in 2012, but was registering for a Boston Marathon qualifier within hours of last year’s bombings. He also took part in the One Run for Boston charity relay from Santa Monica, Calif., to Boston when he took a leg in Johnstown nearly two weeks ago. That relay has raised close to $440,000 out of a $1 million goal to go toward the One Fund Boston, the charity set up to help survivors of the backpack bombings.

“When (the bombing) happened, I knew probably that afternoon or evening (I would be running in it this year),” he said last night from Fenway Park. “That afternoon or evening I looked online for a marathon I knew would be good for me to qualify for the Boston Marathon this year.”

He had already visited memorials by the finish line.

“What happened last year hardened my resolve,” he said. “As a runner, it really affected me last year.”

Martin said it was “super, super hot” two years ago, and he didn’t “run to race.

“Tomorrow, I’m going to run it as hard as I possibly can and draw on the strength of the people from Boston and around the world even.”