A fateful finish-line connection endures

Lauren Woods, a Boston police officer and Dorchester resident, has always wanted to run in the Boston Marathon at least once in her life. This year, she has a really good reason to finally do it.

Woods was one of the officers at the finish line when the two bombs went off in 2013 and she was particularly struck by one of the victims she cared for at the scene: Lingzi Lu - a Boston University student from China who was killed by a blast from one of the bombs. She was just 23 years old.

As she learned about the life of Lingzi Lu following her death, Woods was so inspired by her story that she decided to run in memory of Lu and to raise funds for the Lingzi Foundation, established by Lu’s family.

“She had such a strong work ethic, ambition, and drive to further educate herself here,” Woods said.

After giving birth to her first child, Woods decided against running in the previous two marathons. She wanted to feel “back into the swing of things.” She said she is now ready to run to help the foundation, which is devoted to extending Lu’s legacy of creating cross-cultural connections and building bridges around the world.

“I just feel like her being an international student and not being from here, she doesn’t get the same recognition as other people,” said Woods. “To continue to just keep her memory alive was just something I needed to do.

Woods began preparation in January with the L Street Running Club of South Boston. Her agenda included cross-training workouts in the gym and long runs starting at 10 miles, which she said gave her the chance the see more of the city every weekend. “It really keeps you regimented. Every Sunday you go out with a group of 20, sometimes 40 people, and everybody has got their own pace,” she said.

In addition to setting up the donation page on both the foundation’s website and her personal runner page, Woods has been selling raffles for a scratch-ticket book and said she is grateful for the amount of support she has received for the foundation. “To receive $100 from somebody that you were friends with maybe in high school and you haven’t talked to them really – it’s very humbling,” she said. “They see the significance of training and why I’m running, so the whole experience has been great.”

Lingzi LuLingzi LuWhen Lu’s parents were told of Woods’s decision to run on behalf of the foundation, they decided to give back to the Boston Police Department, this year they will be donating to the department’s Police Athletic League - news that Woods says makes the experience even better. “To me, it’s all personal, it’s everything kind of coming together – work, life, and it’s very special,” Woods said.

Woods believes that her personal connections to Lu are part of what gave her the ability to connect so deeply with Lu’s family, whom she remains in touch with to this day. “I’m an only child, she’s an only child,” Woods said. “I traveled abroad to Australia for one semester [and] I couldn’t imagine not coming home. It’s the last thing you would ever think that you’re going to get a call, thousands and thousands of miles away, that something happened to your child,” she added.

As a parent, Wood feels especially drawn to helping honor the life of Lingzi: “I think it’s just all intertwined for me, to do something to bring her into the spotlight and be recognized for the wonderful human being that she was.”

In an email to friends asking for their support, Woods closed with this thought: “I was by her side on April 15th, 2013 and I know she will be by my side this April 18th, 2016.”

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