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Woman thwarted in cancer benefit at 2013 Boston Marathon to run again

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Running to raise funds to support a childhood friend and classmate who died of cancer, Penny Richmond Ruhm was a half mile from finishing the Boston Marathon last year when she was forced to stop because of the bombings at the finish line.

Mrs. Ruhm, who debated whether to return to Boston this year for another attempt at the marathon, decided she would return, motivated in part by a motto her friend often repeated.

“She used to say the Richmond family motto was ‘Resolve and persevere,’” Mrs. Ruhm said. “I know she would say that about this.”

Mrs. Ruhm laced up her sneakers last year to raise funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in memory of Barbara Richmond Moran, who lost her life to breast cancer in 2012. Mrs. Moran, a 1978 graduate of South Jefferson Central School District, taught physical education at General Brown Central School and was a certified personal trainer. She always dreamed of running the Boston Marathon.

Mrs. Ruhm, a 1979 South Jefferson graduate, was motivated to run the Boston Marathon last year because of her friend’s dream. The pair shared the maiden name Richmond but are not related.

Last year, Mrs. Ruhm, a program manager at Adirondack Health Institute in Glens Falls, set a $10,000 goal as part of her participation in the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge program. The goal was exceeded by $4,000.

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston is a world leader in cancer treatment and research. Its Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge program directs 100 percent of funds raised to the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research.

zumba fundraiser

Last year’s fundraising efforts included a local Zumba fundraiser, which will be repeated this year. The second annual “Zumba for Barb” is from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday in McVean Gymnasium at Jefferson Community College.

Mrs. Ruhm was approximately 23 miles into the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon last year when she first noticed something was wrong. Two homemade bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and wounding more than 180 people. One bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed during a getaway attempt and the other, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured and awaits trial. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Tamerlan’s brother, faces 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, in connection with the April 15 attack.

Mrs. Ruhm said she thought the sirens she heard during last year’s marathon were the normal sounds of a big city.

“When you are 22 or 23 miles into a marathon, you are pretty much just focused on putting one foot in front of the other,” Mrs. Ruhm said. “You aren’t really thinking outside of your own head; at least I’m not.”

But then she noticed runners talking on cell phones and people walking on the course. When she was a half mile from finishing, there was a barricade and a policeman, who told her about the bombings and that the marathon was over.

“That’s when it hit me,” Mrs. Ruhm said. “The horror of the whole thing was thinking, ‘That’s where my family is.’”

At the finish line were Mrs. Ruhm’s husband, Michael, and her two sons, ages 18 and 16. Also waiting was a friend.

At that point, she didn’t care that her marathon wasn’t official.

“It wasn’t about the finish,” Mrs. Ruhm said. “It so quickly changed from being about finishing a marathon to trying to figure out where my family and friends were and what was going on. Was there more (bombing) to come?”

After wondering for more than two hours, Mrs. Ruhm, who wasn’t carrying a cell phone, discovered that her relatives and friend were OK. She borrowed a phone from a woman and texted one of her sons who told her the group members were fine and at their hotel.

joined by husband this year

This year’s Boston Marathon is on April 21.

“I debated if this was something I wanted to do again,” Mrs. Ruhm said. “You look at things a little different.”

The reaction Mrs. Ruhm received from marathon spectators last year helped to persuade her to try again. She was one of 500 runners who ran to support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Spectators could tell the Dana-Farber runners by their jerseys.

“I had people coming out onto the course and hugging me, saying, ‘Thank you for doing this,’” Mrs. Ruhm said. “It was incredibly emotional.”

Mrs. Ruhm will be joined at this year’s marathon by her husband, Michael, who was inspired to run after last year’s bombings. They have both run three marathons but have never completed the Boston event. They plan to attend Saturday’s Zumba benefit at JCC.

“When you are part of such a tragic and senseless event and a witness to its carnage, I believe it is only natural to think about things like luck, evil, fear, and death, and in the days and months following the bombings, I did just that,” Mr. Ruhm said in a letter to supporters.

In the letter, Mr. Ruhm said he sees similarities between cancer and terrorism.

“Both are senseless and evil, their victims chosen by chance, and subjected to fear, death and questioning,” Mr. Ruhm wrote. “In my mind, the primary difference between them is in the fear that they create. Our fear at the hands of terrorism lasted only seconds, while the fear experienced by cancer patients may last for months or even years.”

The details
WHAT: The second annual ‘Zumba for Barb’ to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in memory of Barbara Richmond Moran.
WHEN: 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18 at the Jefferson Community College McVean Gymnasium,
COST: $8 donation.
OF NOTE: The event will also include raffles and drawings for donations such as gift baskets.
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