AMONG THE 32,000 runners who crossed the Broad Street Run finish line at the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia yesterday, no one was more fervently "Family Strong" and "Boston Strong" than Jamal Lewis Sr., who was greeted by sons Jamal Jr., 7, and Jayden, 5, and by his wife, Amy, who was holding daughter Jordan, 10 months.
"After the Boston Marathon bombings, my sister-in-law texted me, 'Don't do any more runs,' " said Lewis, a South Philly native now living in Pemberton, N.J. "I texted her back, 'Can't do that.'
"I'm an American," he said. "I believe in keeping my family close to me, and I'm not going to let some crazy person dictate how I live or how we live as a family. I'm not going to let terrorists stop me."
"You try to be as safe as possible," said Amy, "but you have to live your life."
The throng of runners like Lewis on Broad Street threw down a giant exclamation point on three weeks in which tens of thousands of runners from coast to coast have cast aside the solitary nature of their sport to show solidarity, to come together at impromptu events or at previously scheduled marathons to proclaim that they are "Boston Strong."
With next year's 118th Boston Marathon already garnering unprecedented interest from runners vowing they won't be cowed by terrorism, others from San Diego to Point Pleasant, Ohio, and more than 100 other locales have answered a nationwide call to take to the streets in a show of fearlessness. Yesterday in western Pennsylvania, organizers of the Pittsburgh Marathon even waived registration fees for 37 runners who failed to finish the Boston race because of the lethal bombings there.
In Philly, memories of April 15 also meant added security. Police were out in force along the 10-mile Broad Street race route and in the skies above it. Early in the race, there was an armed cop for every spectator around City Hall.
"I don't want my kids growing up afraid and living in fear," said Lewis, who wore red wristbands on his ankles to honor the three bombing victims who died in Boston and the more than 170 who were wounded.
"We talked about the Boston bombings with the kids," he said. "We talked about how we weren't going to let that stop us from being here today, together at the finish line, a family show of force. I told them, 'Let's do as much as we can together as a close family today because tomorrow is not promised to anyone.' "
Jamal Jr. ran the final 100 yards with his dad, which, Lewis said, "gave me that little extra push I needed to finish."
Lewis' mother, Irie, and his son Joel, 2, joined the joyful family group. "We grew up as a military family," Lewis said. "Two of my uncles died in the Vietnam War. We believe in our country. We believe in our freedom."
On the mile-long walk from SEPTA's AT&T Station at Broad Street and Pattison Avenue to the Naval Yard finish line, an army of private security guards inspected every bag that wasn't transparent.
The huge presence of uniformed cops eased the fears of young couples like Gary Morris and his wife, Lauren, of Swedesboro, N.J., who brought their 8-month-old, Sophia.
Morris, whose passion is 100-mile bicycle races, ran down Broad Street while Lauren, whose passion is long-distance IronMan triathlons, waited for him with Sophia. "Couldn't get a babysitter," she said, laughing.
"Everything that went down in Boston motivated me to run this race," Morris said, explaining that he was deeply affected by "the 8-year-old boy who died while he was at the finish line, waiting for his dad.
"I needed to get through that mentally and not have it in my head," Morris said. "That's why I ran this race, knowing my wife and daughter were waiting for me at the finish line. And that everyone would be OK."
"This kind of competition is a lifestyle for us," Lauren said. "We can't do this and be afraid. You have to have faith in the police. And there were a ton of police."
Chris Jones of West Deptford, N.J., also was reassured by the police presence as she waited with her son Jeff's wife, Lauren, and their son Jeremy, 18 months.
"After the Boston bombings, I called people I know and said, 'Please don't run,' " Jones said. "But I was vetoed."
Moments after he finished the race and joined his family, Jeff Jones said, "We weren't going to be scared."
"As a mom," his mother said, "you never lose that fear. But he did a great job reassuring me."
Michelle O'Hanlon of Springfield, Delaware County, ran with Penn State friends Emily Fenimore and Katie Lieb, both of Downingtown - all of them wearing dramatic O'Hanlon-designed T-shirts that combined the "Boston Strong" theme with the Broad Street Run finish line.
"We ran for people who couldn't finish in Boston," O'Hanlon said, adding that she sold 50 of her T-shirts and will send the proceeds to the One Fund-Boston, which will help the bombing victims there.
Early in the race, amid the heavy police presence around City Hall, Joe and Regina Montemarano of Pennington, N.J., stood with their daughter Devyn, 16, who held a handmade poster that read, "SIS - DAMN, LOOK AT 'EM LEGS! GO COL!"
Her brother Colin was honoring his grandmother Anna, a cancer survivor, and three grandparents who died from the disease by running for the American Cancer Society's DeterMination fundraising campaign. When he rounded the corner onto 15th Street, he left the race long enough to high-five his family, then returned without missing a beat.
"There are a lot of police officers here, so we feel safe," his mom said, as the family boarded a SEPTA train headed for the finish line.
That was the prevailing sentiment of the day for runners and families alike. Philly Strong supported Boston Strong, and courage ruled the finish line.
- Staff writer Will Bunch
contributed to this report.