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NYC Marathon pays tribute to Boston Marathon victims

NEW YORK -- Despite not entering this year's Boston Marathon, Stephen Odom ultimately played a crucial role in the event when tragedy struck his hometown on Patriots' Day. A marathon runner by hobby, Odom is a trauma surgeon by trade.

Odom, who completed Sunday's New York City Marathon just 6 1/2 months after the tragic ending to the Boston Marathon, was an integral part of the response team in the aftermath of the bombings. That day was at the forefront of Odom's mind Sunday morning before he made the 26.2-mile trek through New York City's five boroughs, all while his wife, Alexandra Smith, waited near the finish line, just outside of Central Park.

"He was a big part of responding to the victims, so this is very important to him," Smith said. "It was really hard for him to see what happened in Boston because, aside from the tragedy for all the victims, the marathon is something he truly enjoys every year and he couldn't believe something like that could happen at a sporting event."

Though it was one of the furthest things from his mind on that day, Odom did not even know, at the time, if he would have the opportunity to participate in Sunday's marathon.

Under most circumstances, Odom would have already known whether or not he was one of the approximately 47,000 runners accepted into the race. Only this year, the New York City Marathon was rebounding from a tragedy of its own.

With Hurricane Sandy forcing the cancellation of last year's race, the event holders were tasked this year with balancing the approval of new runners, while also accommodating those who missed out in 2012. Just weeks after aiding the victims of the Boston Marathon, Odom got the telephone call -- he would wear bib No. 28598 come November.

"It's hard to put into words, really. He was just so excited when he got the call because he was going to be able to run to represent Boston, the victims and the first responders," Smith said. "It means so much to him to be out here today."

It also meant a lot to Odom -- and much of the city of Boston -- for the Red Sox to take home this year's World Series trophy. Boston celebrated its title with a victory parade on Saturday that included a touching tribute to the bombing victims at the marathon's finish line on Boylston Street.

Two weeks before running in Sunday's marathon, Odom, along with his wife, took in the Red Sox Game 6 victory over the Tigers in the American League Championship Series. That win clinched the Red Sox spot in the Fall Classic en route to winning the World Series in six games against the Cardinals.

"It's almost like we were showing everyone that we're still here, our city is still here, and something like that can't keep us down," said Smith, who was joined near the finish line by college friend Carla Storey, who had flown in from Texas for the weekend's big event. "We're such a big sports city and we love sports so much in Boston -- it's just another way we all come together as a city."

New York, too, was coming together on Sunday, one year after Sandy affected much of the city. Yet while celebrating the return of its own event, the New York City Marathon on Sunday also paid tribute to Boston. Blue and yellow Boston Marathon flags were on display throughout the course, and blue ribbons honoring the Boston victims were distributed to each of the record 50,740 runners who started the race.

Though just a spectator at Sunday's race, marathon enthusiast Scott Spencer completed this spring's Boston Marathon before the bomb blasts disrupted the race.

While Spencer said that seeing Sunday's marathon run smoothly will certainly help Boston heal further from the tragedy, it was also a significant step in the right direction for New York.

"For New Yorkers to see this race happen again after last year is so great. But both marathons, Boston and New York, kind of had something in common with both being affected by a tragedy," said Spencer, who has run nearly 30 marathons, including eight Boston Marathons. "So it's good to see New York come back strong, and I'm sure Boston will do the same next year."

To some extent, Boston has already started.

A strong community response in the aftermath of the bombings included heavy involvement from the Red Sox. The organization honored countless victims, rescue personnel, police and medical types at Fenway Park throughout the season and postseason. They recognized many on the field, while others threw out first pitches or sang the national anthem.

Off the field, Red Sox players, coaches and front office personnel lent their time and services -- often times without even notifying the club -- anyway they could. That culminated in Saturday's emotional tribute during the team's World Series victory parade.

"After what happened in Boston, I felt like I needed to be here for today's event," said Boston native and Manhattan resident James Stevenson, who added he had never previously considered attending a marathon. "But Boston is already heading in the right direction, and the Red Sox definitely played a part in that. Sports are so important in that city and they not only helped the victims with donations, but they helped us all come together during a really hard time."

Smith echoed that sentiment, crediting the Red Sox for helping to provide some sort of distraction in the wake of the tragedy, not only for her husband, but for the city as a whole. The Boston Marathon will have its opportunity to restore its glory next April, but the process is already well underway and that was on full display Sunday among the sea of "Boston Strong" T-shirts and Red Sox hats at the New York City Marathon.

"It's great that the team supports the marathon, and it's great that they won the World Series," Smith said. "It shows that we're still strong. We're still a city, still a family."

Paul Casella is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.
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