Before they took off from the starting line, more than 15,000 people in downtown Hartford shared a moment of silence to honor the women and children who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.
The only sound was the ringing of 26 bell tolls echoing down Main Street.
The Sandy Hook Run for the Families, a 5k race organized by the Hartford Marathon Foundation and many other volunteers, not only drew thousands of runners, but also pulled in more than $438,000 for the Sandy Hook School Support Fund.
"This is just a very special honoring of all of the people that were lost, all of the families that were involved, all of the friends and all of the first responders," said Pam House, a volunteer with the Hartford Marathon Foundation.
The Hartford Marathon gets approximately 15,000 participants every year, House said.
From Hartford, to Boston, to the Bronx, runners (and walkers) came out in droves for the first Sandy Hook Run for the Families, topping the benchmark the Hartford Marathon has seen in past races.
Wearing bid No. 1, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joined the action, too, briefly speaking to the crowd before the start of the race, thanking them for coming out in support and for "remembering."
On the cold early spring day, with a mix of sun and flurries, participants of all ages ran. Some sprinted across the finish line and some walked, and many raised their arms up, giving their children, friends or family members high fives before regaining the energy to walk toward the never ending table of Poland Spring water bottles.
Two friends and longtime running mates from New London were among the first to cross the finish line. They run in organized races often, but this time was different, they said. "It was pretty cool seeing all the people here, I've never been in a 5k this big," Scott Mindel, 26, said. "We got 15,000 people, and it's sold out, that's crazy."
First place runner Steve Pretak,28, finished the 5k in 16 minutes, 10 seconds, followed by Mindel one second later.
For the first place finisher though, finishing before the pack or behind them actually does not matter much. Saturday's race had a different degree of emotion compared with other races he's participated in, Pretak said. "With the bell ringing so many times it really puts it in perspective," Pretak said.
"It just matters showing up and being here, supporting."