Manny Garcia was sitting in the waiting room of Clemons auto shop, waiting for mechanics to repair his car, when he heard the news. From the TV, an ESPN announcer relayed the grim events that had unfolded in New England: an explosion at the Boston Marathon had killed three people and injured scores more.
As a Christian, as a pastor in fact, the first thing Garcia thought to do was pray. Perhaps it was because he is a runner that the incident hit home. As a father of four, perhaps it was hearing that one of the victims was an 8-year-old boy that did it. Whatever the reason, he felt he could do more than pray.
When the final death toll was released, Garcia, 31, of rural Union, decided he would use his passion for running to raise awareness: he would run a marathon for each of the victims and donate all the money he raised to the families of those affected by the bombing.
Manny Garcia, front, runs in the Leprechaun Chase 10K in Des Moines March 16. Garcia will run marathons, one May 13, 15 and 18 to raise money for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
"I felt like it needed to be something that is challenging," he said. "I want to do something that actually raises awareness."
Garcia will undertake each of the 26.2-mile routes May 13, 15 and 18, running 78.6 miles in six days. The first run will be a loop from Conrad to Gladbrook. The second will begin at Garcia's church, Bangor Liberty Friends Church, loop around Albion and head back south toward 190th Street. The final leg of the runs will start at Riverview Park and go to Grimes Farm.
Garcia said he has worked with a pastor's group at New Hope Christian Church, among them Kerry Jech and David Peterson, to help spread the word. Since Garcia brought up doing the marathons at the group's Tuesday meeting, the men have been brainstorming how to inform people of the runs should they want to sponsor Garcia or donate to his cause.
All the money will go to aid the victims of the explosion. However, Garcia said he hasn't settled on a fund just yet, but he is leaning toward The One Fund for Boston set up by Boston Mayor Tom Menino. He said he wants to ensure 100 percent of the money is going to the families of those affected and that none of it gets lost in the transition.
"His heart has gone out to the victims, and he wanted to make a difference," Peterson said. "There is no way I could do what he is doing."
Garcia runs 5-to-8 miles a day. He has run only one marathon before. Running three is definitely going to test him, he said, but if it were easy, it wouldn't be a testament to his commitment. He is calling the trio of runs "Run for Redemption."
Those who want to help but are unable to donate or sponsor Garcia's runs can run, bike, rollerblade or otherwise keep him company through various stretches of the runs. He said he isn't trying to break any speed records; he just wants to finish, and community support is important in achieving that.
The heart of why he is doing the runs is so that, in their anger and thirst for justice, people don't lose sight of what's really important.
"There is some good in the world and people still care about one another," he said. "Even a little guy can make a difference. There are still victims. The attention is not on the victims. The evil is getting the attention."
To help Garcia's cause, visit youcaring.com/r4rboston. Checks can be mailed to Manny Garcia c/o Bangor Liberty Friends Church, 1260 Hopkins Ave., Union, Iowa 50258. To contact Garcia about accompanying him through a portion of any of the three runs, call 641-750-3622.