When the bombings occurred at the Boston Marathon on April 15, Lane Glenn received a flood of calls and e-mails asking if he was running in the iconic race. He was not, but he still felt a part of that community.
“Marathon running is a sport of good will,” he said. “For those of us who are runners, [the bombings] felt particularly atrocious.”
The two bombs near the finish line of the Marathon killed three people and injured more than 260. A few days later, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer also was killed, allegedly shot to death by the bombing suspects.
Glenn, an avid runner and president of Northern Essex Community College, wants people to continue to be involved in the sport, despite the tragedy.
“It’s important to show support and encourage people to get back out there and be resilient and to turn out for races and peaceful competition,” he said.
When Glenn arrived at Northern Essex seven years ago to serve as vice president of academic affairs, he began breaking up his long workday with a 4- to 5-mile run around the campus at lunchtime.
He has been president of the college since 2011, and he’s not only still running, but he’s gotten others to join him.
Glenn’s initiative is the President’s Running Club, which has the slogan “We Run the Campus.”
“I thought it would be a great idea to encourage fitness for employees and students and a social way of getting together,” said Glenn, 45, of Amesbury.
At noon every Monday, members of the group gather in front of the Sports and Fitness Center, then run three laps – 3.3 miles – around a portion of the Haverhill campus.
Then the professors, administrators, and students shower and go back to their offices, meetings, and classrooms.
Some run together on other days as well, and take different routes, such as the scenic 4.5 miles around Lake Kenoza, which is next to the campus
“On any given week, there are four or five opportunities for people to run,” Glenn said.
“I am serious about the message that I hope it sends to employees: Don’t chain yourself to your desk,” he added. “Good physical health makes you more effective in what you do for a living, and makes you generally a happier and healthier person. I always feel better after [running].
“The mind-body connection is important,” he said. “When you are physically disciplined, you tend to be more mentally disciplined.”
The club — which is free — started with faculty and staff, and has grown to include a few students. There are about 40 members, with 15 or 20 running together at any given time. There also is a group on the college’s Lawrence campus.
As for the experience and abilities of the participants, Glenn said, “it’s a wide spectrum from walkers to really accomplished runners.”
“The goal is to enjoy ourselves and for everybody to improve their fitness, wherever they start from,” Glenn said. “It’s about personal goals.”
“When you run with others it gives you motivation to improve,” said David Howard, 69, of North Andover, a tutor in English as a second language. He runs three days a week and said students have told him he is a role model for being so fit at his age.
At the end of each semester, members of the club run a race together, such as the Feaster Five in Andover each Thanksgiving Day.
“We’ve had several people who have run their first or their fastest 5Ks or their first 5 miles,” Glenn said.
This spring, the college decided to sponsor its own race — the first Campus Classic 5K and Fun Run will take place Saturday. Proceeds from registration fees and sponsorships will go to One Fund Boston to benefit victims of the Marathon bombings, as well as to scholarships.
Recently, the club has been running the campus race route in preparation.
“It’s so wonderful that at the end of the semester when we race, these people who didn’t think they could even perhaps walk a mile, run 3.3 miles and they feel so exhilarated,” said Linda Desjardins of Hampton, N.H., a professor of communications and an accomplished runner.
Desjardins, 65, said she was “on board right from the start” with the running club.
“Perhaps, the best thing to me is I have met some faculty members on a social level. We never have had time to chit-chat before,” she said. “And even better, I’ve gotten to know students and have made friendships that continue. Students contact me and ask if we can go for a run. It has expanded beyond what I ever thought.”
Desjardins ran the Marathon, her sixth, on April 15 and recently shared her experiences with fellow running club members.
She was six-10ths of a mile from the finish line when the race was halted. “Selfishly, I felt shortchanged,” she said in a phone interview. “That lasted 20 seconds, and then with the thought of the enormity of it, people killed and limbs everywhere, finishing the Marathon meant nothing.”
She was more concerned about connecting with her sister who was at the finish line, which she eventually did.
And, as a way of processing the event, she went running again.
“I had a bizarre internal need to cross a finish line, so I ran a 5K’’ on the following Saturday, she said. “I can’t explain it, but it was some sort of closure.”
And she’ll be in line for next year’s Marathon, for which she has already qualified.
Pam Donahue of Methuen, 63, an accounting professor, was never a runner but decided to join the club when it started. She ran her first 5K last year.
“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “It keeps you in shape and it’s a nice diversion from academia.”
Maeve Hurley, 20, a student and member of the basketball team at Northern Essex, has been running with the club this semester. “It keeps me in shape and it’s nice to run around the campus,” she said.
Hurley said she never imagined she’d be tying up her sneakers alongside the college’s president.
And, Glenn said, “I never thought I’d be running with one of our star basketball players, but here we are.”
Jeff Bickford, 42, of West Newbury, chief information officer at the college, helps coach the club members and said one goal is to get more students involved. “We are building momentum and getting more each semester,” he said. “Word is getting out.”
The club is now also open to Northern Essex alumni.
“It’s picking up speed, I guess I’d say,” added Glenn. “It’s fun and a good positive vibe.”
Glenn said with the demands of serving as president, he doesn’t get out to run as many days a week as he did in the past. But, he almost always makes the club’s Monday run.
“I figured if I started the club I had the perfect excuse to keep doing this at lunchtime,” he said. “I block it off my calendar and everyone, faculty and staff, knows it’s holy time. I am committed to this.”
After the Marathon bombings, Glenn said, “This is my invitation: If you are a runner or have thought about being a part of this sport of good will, it’s a wonderful way to express health and well-being and also peaceful camaraderie.”