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For the run of it

Charlemont native who witnessed bombing will run in Boston Marathon

Erinn Fleming, who grew up in Charlemont, is running in this year's Boston Marathon. Last year, she was working at the site of one of the bomb blasts. Submitted photo.

Erinn Fleming, who grew up in Charlemont, is running in this year's Boston Marathon. Last year, she was working at the site of one of the bomb blasts. Submitted photo.

BOSTON —On the day of the 2013 Boston Marathon, Charlemont native Erinn Rancourt Fleming came to work early, knowing the marathon brings one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants along the 26-mile course.

Fleming is director of marketing and events for The Forum, a two-story bar and restaurant at 755 Boylston St. — “ground zero” for the second explosion at last year’s marathon, in which three people were killed and hundreds were injured.

This year, Fleming is running the Boston Marathon for the first time in her life, as part of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation Marathon Team, to raise money to support people with cancer and their families. The Forum restaurant was where the foundation was holding a marathon watch party that day.

“It was definitely a day out of nowhere,” Fleming remembers. “We were looking forward to a terrific day. The marathon is an all-hands-on-deck kind of day,” she explained. Extra employees were brought in, there was a lot more set-up work — “pretty standard protocol,” she said.

“We all felt really happy and excited to help (the foundation) raise money. The excitement started a week before the marathon,” she said. “The city just takes on this really exciting electricity. I think I was the first one there that morning. The GM (general manager) came in. We opened our doors and put the music on really loud.”

But it all changed with the second bomb blast. Fleming was in the upstairs kitchen, talking to the chef, when the first bomb exploded in front of Marathon Sports, down the street. “I didn’t think anything was awry until I heard the second bomb go off in front of the restaurant,” she said. “After that, everything snapped.”

“We had a restaurant full of guests on both floors,” she said. “It was my job to escort these guests out to safety, through a back door, into the alley.”

Three restaurant employees had been wounded, one from shrapnel wounds and two with temporary hearing losses.

In those first moments, people were stunned. “It was a combination of being baffled and confused,” she said. “I don’t think anyone for sure knew what happened. There was a lot of disbelief.

“I was more focused on helping guests get out,” she said of her own reaction. “Four of us were a corporate management team,” she said. “I remember us all gathering and touching base for a moment. We did what we could do for the people inside the restaurant. Then we helped the responders who came out of nowhere, into the restaurant, giving them ice and towels (for bandaging the wounded). We emptied our linen closet, just getting them out to where they were needed.”

But this year, instead of going to work, Fleming will be running her first-ever marathon, both to raise money for a good cause and to honor the heroic actions of others in last year’s marathon.

Fleming has been running ever since running track as a middle-school student at the Mohawk Trail Regional School. But she was never one for long-distance running, she said. Fleming grew up in Charlemont, and graduated from the Academy of Charlemont in 1991.

She started thinking about running in the marathon last April, then began her training in earnest in May.

“On the first Saturday in May (2013), we met them (JAF Team runners) at the finish line,” she said. “I just felt this was such a special group of people. I know there are several runners who ran last year, who got turned back (because of the explosions), and who are running again.

“I’m going through it myself, hearing their stories about when they were turned back and stopped.”

Fleming said she started consciously running for a purpose last April, “when I made a decision in my head that I was going to be a runner. It was emotional, because of everything that happened,” she said. “My trainer had me going to small races and encouraged me. I know that was my way to cope with everything. The more I ran, I always had it in my head I’m running to prepare for the marathon.”

Fleming is hoping to raise $10,000 for the JAF Team and has already raised about two-thirds of her goal.

Two weeks before the marathon, the foundation had surpassed its fundraising goal and set a new record, raising $346,781.

More information is available on the fundraising site:

http://www.crowdrise.com/JAF2014BostonMarathon/fundraiser

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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