They come from diverse backgrounds, different cultures and various geographical areas.
The one commonality that has united a group of runners from across the nation who participate in the second annual One Run For Boston is their compassion for those who were either injured or killed in last year's Boston Marathon bombings.
One Run For Boston is a nonstop, cross-country, 3,000-mile relay that crosses through 14 states from Los Angeles to Boston and aims to raise money for the victims of last year's bombings.
The run began in LA on March 16, with the relay baton expected to arrive in Boston on April 13, the week before the marathon.
It was founded in 2013 by three British runners who wanted to show support for the bombing victims.
Local runners participate
Melissa Hager of Lehighton is among several local runners who will run Stage 297 with 21 other runners. Each of the 336 stages may have up to 25 runners.
On April 10, Hager's team, known as Wargo's Warriors, will run nine miles, with a predicted start time of 8:25 p.m.
Hager said her team will carry the torch from Ashfield, Route 895 and the intersection of Blue Mountain Road, to Walnutport, where they will pass the torch to Bart Yasso, a celebrity in the running world who serves as chief running officer at Runner's World.
"As we run through the Lehigh Gap along the D&L, drivers on (Route) 248 will see a green light (relay baton) and our headlamps," Hager said. "The running community is very close, even when people are complete strangers, so we are all friends."
Hager said the team would love for people to come cheer them on as they begin their stage along Route 895 and head toward Bowmanstown to the D&L.
In addition, she said the team would also love a cheering section to greet them in Walnutport as they relay the baton to Yasso and his group.
Hager's team consists of three other local runners: Jackie Hollan from Laurys Station, Zafer Louisa from Allentown, and Kim Hellwig from Bethlehem.
"This is a statement made up of great individuals to express what cannot fully be expressed with words," Louisa said. "I want to be part of it."
From strangersto close-knit group
Despite being strangers, Hager said runners are overall, a close-knit group.
"Runners are resilient and stick together, and share a common bond," she said. "It doesn't matter how fast or slow you run, but we all enjoy running."
Hager, who has run several marathons, said she was scared by the horrific acts of terror that occurred at the Boston Marathon last year.
"I was moved by the heroes who came to aid the victims," she said. "There were so many innocent people hurt, and three killed, by such a vicious act of terror."
The team's run leader, Jennifer Wargo of Downingtown, Chester County, said, "We are running against the Pennsylvania darkness, hills and potential weather, all in a battle to help heal those who cannot fight for themselves."
Wargo then quoted Martin Luther King Jr., "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that."
She added, "April 15th was such a dark day for our running community, and One Run For Boston was a way to shine light, spread hope for healing."
Hager said Wargo will also be a volunteer for the Boston Marathon to help runners get to the starting line.
Bombings leave lasting impression
Hager said she was "startled" when her son asked her not to run the NYC Marathon this past November because he was scared for her.
"I want to show people that we cannot live in fear," she said. "The running community sticks together in times of tragedy. I wanted to be a part of this event to help the innocent victims heal. I wanted to run this event to help others that can no longer run. Time will heal wounds, but terror will not scar our soul. I run for Boston Strong. We will all run on."
Hager said she will never forget the photo of bombing victim Jeff Bauman, the events of the day, as well as the week that followed.
Hager said participants are asked to raise funds for One Run For Boston, but it is not mandatory. The only requirement is that a runner must be able to maintain a 10-minute/mile pace in order to keep the relay running on time, she said.
As of this week, the event had raised $250,000. Last year's event raised $91,000.