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Baiyun Yao and Lu Lingzi were much alike—both Chinese, both roughly the same age, and both on the adventure of an overseas education at BU. Both attended last year’s Boston Marathon, where their similarities ended.

Yao returned home. Lu didn’t.

“When I came back home, I got hundreds of phone calls, texts, and emails checking about me,” Yao (GRS’15) later wrote. “I felt that I was so lucky and so beloved; meanwhile, I also felt deeply sad and shocked that Lingzi, the other similar age Chinese student, got killed.…The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other, but to be with each other.”

Those sentiments earned Yao one of seven spots (expanded from an original five) offered by the Lu family for BU community members in this year’s Marathon. The family was given the slots by the Boston Athletic Association as a tribute to their daughter, Lu Lingzi (GRS’13), who was one of three people killed in the Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013. The gift slots are exempt from the Marathon’s requirements of a qualifying time and a fundraising minimum.

Kenneth Elmore, dean of students, says 211 people entered a BU community–wide competition for the slots, submitting written and/or videotaped statements of their personal motivation to run for Lu Lingzi. Elmore (SED’87) says the seven were chosen based on “the right balance of connection to BU, tribute to Lingzi, ability and drive to complete the Marathon, desire to fundraise on behalf of her family and her memory, and a compelling submission.”

The submissions portray a web of human stories behind the Marathon. For some winners, the race is an old friend; for others, last year’s explosions at the finish line forged a determination to run Boston’s 26 miles for the first time.

Ryan Shea (SAR’11), often a Marathon spectator, had never run one until the day after last year’s catastrophe. Unable to sleep and deeply touched by stories of the victims and rescuers, Shea left work and went to the gym for his customary one-mile treadmill warm-up. “Distracted by watching the news during my run,” he wrote in his statement, “I finally looked down after 35 minutes to find that I had run five miles. At that moment, a crazy thought popped into my head: Could I run an entire marathon?

“Without any training,” Shea wrote, “I ended up running a complete marathon, a total of 26.56 miles, on the treadmill that night. I started at roughly 7:15 p.m. and ended right before midnight.” Watch a video submitted by Shea.

Unlike Shea, Andrew Duffy, a College of Arts & Sciences master lecturer in physics, is a veteran long-distance runner who first came to Boston from Canada to train for the 1995 Marathon. Now in his 19th year at the University, he has run four Marathons and created an app that includes recent race results and the event’s history.

“One thing I made sure to include when I updated it last summer was a small tribute to [Marathon victims] Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, BU’s own Lu Lingzi, and MIT police officer Sean Collier,” he wrote in his statement. “I took my family to watch the Marathon that day, as is our habit each year, and at the end of the day, I was incredibly thankful that we had gone to watch the start in Hopkinton, and not the finish in Boston.

“The Boston Marathon has already changed my life,” he added, “but it would be an honor and a privilege to be able to run for Lu Lingzi, and to be changed once again in the process.”

Shuheng Lin took up running during the second year of her doctoral studies in economics, when she was under a lot of stress. “At first, it was just a way to clear my head, to de-stress,” wrote Lin (GRS’16), “but it offers so much more. Running helps me reflect on and get in touch with things that matter; it allows me to come to terms with my limitations, but at the same time cultivate tenacity and positive energy.” A chance to run this year, she wrote, “is THE opportunity to honor Lu Lingzi and other bombing victims.”

Lin noted that the slot she has won means “reciprocating the strength and strong will her family and those who were maimed have shown us. This year’s Boston Marathon bears very special meanings to many; it will be a day when we come together once again, not to remember those who were killed or harmed as victims but to celebrate them as a tremendous source of inspiration.” Watch a video submitted by Lin.

Others running for Lu are Yujue Wang (CAS’15, SMG’15), who submitted this video, Dan Mercurio (COM’10), BU Athletics director of marketing and strategy, whose video consists of a postrace interview with NBC’s Ann Curry, and Jennifer Carter-Battaglino (SED’03), who has offered to help train runners in her capacity as instructor of a FitRec marathon class.

Money raised by the seven for running the Marathon will go to the Lu Lingzi Scholarship Fund for graduate students. People wishing to donate to the runners may do so here; in the Comment section below, name the runner on whose behalf you’re donating and the amount. Jeanne Knox, chair of BU’s Parents Leadership Council, announced that the council will match, dollar for dollar, any contribution to the scholarship fund made on behalf of the seven runners.

Read the statements of all seven winners here.