Bay Area runner working to help provide prosthetic limbs to Boston Marathon bombing victims 

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Many across the country felt the effects of the Boston Marathon bombings in April. It was supposed to be a day to be celebrated, but turned into one of terror and tragedy. The attack struck a chord with a local runner and she turned it into action.

Mary Kelly Persyn is an avid San Francisco runner who used to live in the Boston area and watched the Boston Marathon many times. It left an impression on Persyn, one strong enough to become involved in the nonprofit No Barriers following April's events.

"We used to live in Boston for many years so I felt a very strong connection to the area and to the race and when that happened, it was an immediate thing," Persyn said. "It wasn't something happening far away. It was something that happened here where we live doing something we love to do."

"It felt like it was an attack on an institution."

No Barriers, which was started in 2005, is aimed at helping to enable and inspire those with disabilities, including wounded veterans and youth missing limbs, to continue to get outside and be active.

Following the Boston bombing, Persyn along with her friend Dr. Hugh Herr began No Barriers Boston. This fundraising effort specifically raises money to help those who lost limbs in the Boston Marathon bombings receive sport-specific prosthetic limbs so they can participate in their sport again.

Herr, who specializes in biomechatronics at MIT, is a double amputee himself.

"Once we learned that there were people who were going to suffer amputations due to that bombing," Persyn said. "That was very impactful because you wonder was that a runner, was that a spectator who loves to run, was it somebody who is an active person?"

"For anyone an amputation is an incredibly traumatic life-altering [event] ... it's a tragedy."

The bombing killed three people and injured more than 250, some of which lost limbs.

No Barriers Boston, which has raised $25,000 in less than two months, was taken up as a sponsor charity for the San Francisco Marathon. Persyn, who is a member of the San Francisco Runners Club and an ambassador for the San Francisco Marathon, was working her way up to run in the San Francisco Marathon but will be unable to participate due to an injury.

"I was working my way up to a marathon," she said. "I got injured and kept hoping I would be able to do one of the allied events but have not been able to get recovered sufficiently to do it, which is a big disappointment."

She has not run either the San Francisco or Boston marathons but has both on her bucket list.

Los Gatos resident Peter Rabover also became heavily involved in the cause. He is running the 52.4k double marathon, which begins at midnight before the rest of the San Francisco Marathon.

Anyone interested in becoming involved or looking to donate to No Barriers can find more information at

San Francisco Marathon

WHEN: Sunday, first wave at 5:30 a.m.

START: Embarcadero and Mission

FINISH: Embarcadero and Howard


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Zack Farmer

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