Peoria's River City Marathon serves as healing for team of Boston marathon runners

By Joe Bennett

Peoria's River City Marathon serves as healing for team of Boston marathon runners

May 19, 2013 Updated May 19, 2013 at 11:10 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Peoria's first River City Marathon was a certified competition that allowed qualifiers to run in the famous Boston Marathon.

But a relay team whose members ran in this year's Boston Marathon continue going strong.

Cathy Zwink is on that team and is running the first leg of the marathon relay.

The four team members say the only goal is to finish the 26.2 miles under three hours and 15 minutes.

"For me six miles isn't a huge deal," said Zwink. "So I've been doing a few longer runs, and when I say longer maybe eight miles, 10 miles."

Joy Morris ran in this year's Boston Marathon.

Since then she has run couple of races, such as Running for Boston, which helped victims of last month's terrorist bombing.

"It was a little emotional, obviously, because it was so close to the marathon and just the circumstances surrounding it, that it was to raise money for the Boston victims. And there were a lot of people," said Morris. "I mean, it was awesome to see all of those people come out and support it."

The River City Marathon donates funds to the Saint Jude Run, part of the reason so many runners registered for Sunday's race.

Juliet Wu, also ran the Boston Marathon this year. She says even competitive runners tend to support one another.

That's why she joined Morris to support Boston victims. It is also why she runs in her hometown on a day as historic as this.

"In order to heal, I felt like it was important for me to get back to what I love, and that's running," Wu said. "So to give back to the community, we really want to support the Peoria marathon."

The runners ran the last few blocks alongside their anchor, Mindy Elliot.

Elliott modestly brushes aside her team's accomplishment of finishing first in the women's relay. She instead points to the hard work of those who ran the marathon, like she did in Champagne three week ago where she took third place in her age group.

"The people running the marathon have been training for six months, getting ready for this," Elliott said. "Then you get a little anxious when it's game time and it's time to do it for real."

The relay winners say they had a great time, finishing 26.2 miles in three hours and 13 minutes.

River City Marathon runners could not have not made it through the day without the help of the hundreds of people keeping them hydrated.

The First United Methodist Church in Peoria provided water and Gatorade along Main Street downtown.

Eight members of the church's congregation ran the race, with 20 volunteers coaching them on at the water table.

Pastor Eric Swanson says having a downtown location means supporting everything in downtown Peoria.

"For us to be able to be fully engaged and fully involved in our community is really what it's about to be the church," he said. "Church is about worshipping God and being in a community with one another and helping each other through that, and so to live this every day, this is what we're about, and we're celebrating it."

Pastor Swanson says the church thought about playing inspirational music, but did not want to compete with the radio station sponsor.