Stephanie Loftin took up running after her brother, Jamie Bishop, was killed in the Virginia Tech school shooting.
A certified fitness trainer, she’d always been active in sports like tennis and other athletic events.
But running became her therapy after her brother died five years ago along with 31 others. It was the worst school shooting in U.S. history. Jamie Bishop was 35.
“I ran my first 5K the year after he was killed,” she said. “After it was over, I just wanted to call him and tell him what I’d done and I couldn’t.”
She’s run in a number of events since then, including four marathons. But like baseball players who want to get to the World Series, and football players who want to be in the Superbowl, running has its big event.
“Everyone who runs wants to do the Boston Marathon,” Loftin said.
She set out to qualify for the race this year but the marathon organization changed the requirements. She didn’t qualify.
“In December, a friend of mine wrote a letter to the Boston Athletic Association and pleaded my case,” she said.
Running the marathon this year of all years was important because of the fifth anniversary of the shooting. When marathon organizers heard Loftin’s story, they let her run on April 16.
Loftin’s mother, Jeri Bishop, says the family all tries to spend time around the anniversary of the shooting together, and were glad to go to Boston to support her.
“It was just a fabulous trip,” Jeri Bishop said.
The family was waiting to see her at mile marker 22.
“To see her hit that mark and smile, I can’t tell you what it meant,” her mother said.
Not only did Loftin run, she finished the race.
“It was hot but incredible,” she said.
The race was held during an unusual heat wave in the Northeast with temperatures in the 80s.
The siblings are two years apart wit h Jamie being the oldest, and Loftin says her brother always was supportive of her athletic activities. He would not have joined her in the race, however.
“He was always an enthusiastic supporter, but I can’t see him taking part in an event that lasts upwards of four hours,” she joked.
Jamie Bishop was “everyone’s friend,” his sister said.
“He could engage anyone in conversation and he was such a creative person,” she said. “He had a lot to offer the world.”
Bishop was a talented photographer and LaGrange College, where his father Michael is a writer in residence, hosted a show of his work in 2008. A sculpture garden outside the gallery is dedicated to him.
“It’s even more precious to us now, because we know that his art is finite,” Loftin said.
Jeri Bishop says the outpouring of support from the community, at the time of the shooting and now, means a lot to the family.
“We remember and appreciate that support, even five years later,” she said.
Jamie Bishop graduated as the valedictorian from Harris County High School, then headed for the University of Georgia. He studied German and was teaching an elementary German class at Virginia Tech when he was killed.
“It was meaningful to do something positive on the day Jamie died,” Loftin said.
All along the route, there were people – people not even affiliated with the race – who offered ice, Popsicles, water and other support to the runners. Some even had hoses to hose people down.
“It was nice to see that aspect of humanity on a day that I associate with so much tragedy,” Loftin said.
And she plans to keep running.
“I don’t know what I’d do if I quit,” she said.