Western Mass Distance Project prepares for Boston Marathon - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Western Mass Distance Project prepares for Boston Marathon

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On a cool and dreary Sunday morning in April, they gather at the Northampton Running Company.

They're known as the Western Mass Distance Project - a group of runners from Westfield, Easthampton, Sunderland and all over the region.

They met up for one of the last training runs before the big day, Marathon Monday.

The pack started at a Christmas party as a way for friends to keep in touch.

"We're not all big golfers so we were like, 'We're not going to do big golf trips,'" said Sean Duncan, of Gardner.  

Instead they decided to run.

And from there it grew as a club for local runners and eventually into something even bigger.

"It's awesome. It's like a family, I mean, you can see it when you look inside," said Duncan.

Through rain, sleet, snow and a polar vortex, this family trained for four months to get in top shape to compete in the country's oldest marathon.

"It was icy, it was dicey, but the team helps you get through that kind of stuff," said Sarah Romain, of Easthampton.

"It takes a lot of time and commitment and hard work and usually when people see a good race, that's a small snip of a lot of the work that's been done," said Duncan. 

Many in the group ran in last year's race, including Sarah Smiarowski, of Sunderland.

"I was with my daughter and put my finisher's medal around her neck and that's when my husband and I heard, boom," said Smiarowski.  

The boom she heard was the first of two explosions at last year's race.

"I felt guilty. Here I am running and my daughter is right there on the sidelines. I felt like I put her in harm's way," said Smiarowski. 

After the tragedy at last year's finish line, the group knew they had to do something.

So within a week, they organized a charitable race for the One Fund at Stanley Park in Westfield.

It was called "Run for Boston."

Those who weren't allowed to finish last year's race were welcomed to a mock Boylston Street finish line in the park.

The group said they choose to focus more on the good that came out of that dark day of April 15, 2013. 

"The thing that comes out of this is a lot of community and supports one another, so that's what you have to hold on to through something like this," said Romain. 

And it's that community and support that has them coming back again for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.

"I love Boston. It's my hometown race," said Smiarowski. 

"We're going to enjoy the day in Boston," said Duncan.

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