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Runners on the First Coast participate in virtual Boston Marathon

Four runners on the First Coast were supposed to run the Boston Marathon before COVID-19 canceled it. They ran it in Ponte Vedra instead.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Four runners went out for a jog Saturday morning. This run, however, was just a little longer than usual. 

"We would run up and down the Palm Valley Bridge, which has a very steep incline, both ways 20 times and it worked out pretty well, even, at the end we got to 26.2," Micheal Dean said.

That was the distance that Michael Dean, his brother Brian Dean, Albie MacDonald and Jonathan Fleetwood were supposed to run this week at the Boston Marathon. It was canceled for the first time in more than 100 years because of COVID-19.

"They [the Boston Marathon board] made a great decision to turn the marathon, the one 124th running of the marathon, into a virtual marathon," Brian Dean said. "The Boston Marathon is really the most popular global marathon in the world and nothing can compare to it, but we did what we could from a COVID perspective and made some lemonade out of lemons."

Friends, family and members of the community were spaced out along the route to cheer the runners on, some running alongside them the last few laps.

"The love and support that we got today prove that this world is great and we are one big happy family. If we give love, we will get love and it’s really that simple, and we saw that today," Brian Dean said.

The course was complete with a start and a finish line.

"We got the start and finish line printed for us so we could get the feeling of the Boston Marathon. We didn’t spray paint it on the ground like they do in Boston, but this is the next best thing," Michael Dean said.

They ran those 26.2 miles for the Apryle Showers Foundation, a local charity that pays for retreats for those undergoing cancer treatment. The Deans said they partnered with the national charity Golf Fights Cancer to get bibs for the marathon. Golf Fights Cancer agreed to grant all the money that the runners raised back to Apryle Showers. 

"I'm proud to say that to date, we've raised $60,000," Brian Dean said.

It was a different type of Saturday morning run, Michael's first marathon, that in some ways was even more meaningful, they said.