- Associated Press - Sunday, April 20, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - More than 600 Minnesota runners will line up for the start of the Boston Marathon this year, including 212 who ran last year and say they’re going back to finish what they started.

“The running community will support and will come back bigger and stronger than ever in defiance of what happened and in tribute and support for the victims,” said Jim Driscoll, a Medina resident who finished his 26th straight Boston before two bombs went off, killing three and injuring 260. “I have no doubt about it. That is the No. 1 reason for that race to be run.”

From Warroad to Austin and Fergus Falls to Stillwater, the 615 Minnesota runners are part of a near-record field of 37,000-plus participants for Monday’s race, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported (http://strib.mn/1fcI4HZ ). The runners will be united with half a million spectators in a display of pride and unity.

Some of the runners making the return trip are among the 5,600 or so who were unable to finish after Boston police barricaded the finish area. All of those runners were invited back this year without having to qualify.

Mike Johnson of Stillwater was running his first Boston Marathon last year and was about a mile from the finish line when he heard sirens and saw the scene break down into chaos.

“It was surreal,” said Johnson, 47, who’ll run again Monday. “I was caught up in the emotion of the people that were around me and dealing with the unknown. . A person nearby was hysterical. Just to be around someone like that just hits the heart. I wasn’t full of fear, but I was full of emotion.”

Dan Foster, 49, of Edina, had already finished last year’s race and was eating lunch a few blocks away with his wife and two sons when the bombs exploded. Even today the what-if scenarios weigh on their minds, but Foster said his family supported his decision to go back this year.

“I think they are OK mentally with me going,” he told the newspaper. “They’ll be in good shape.”

This year’s field includes some Minnesota residents who are new to the race and are determined to help start a fresh chapter in Boston.

Jennifer Flavin, 28, of Minnetonka, qualified for the marathon last June at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth. She said she drew strength and inspiration as she watched Boston’s resilience from afar.

The city’s reaction deepened her desire “to celebrate life and the opportunity that we get to go (to Boston),” she said. “I am not scared at all. Not intimidated.”

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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