14,500 run to remember victims of 2007 Virginia Tech shooting

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) -- For some, it was a chance to improve on last year.

"We forced ourselves to run a little bit more this year," said sophomore Victoria Dashevsky.

"A lot more," added Juliette Smetana.

For others, it was their first time around the track.

"At the end, it gets pretty hilly," said sophomore Andrew Bonavita. "It was really tough, but overall it feels rewarding. Got a good sweat on, so I really feel like I accomplished something today."

For all 14,500 runners, joggers and walkers, the 3.2-mile Run in Remembrance hit home in one way or another.

"[I'm] running for all the gun violence victims," Smetana said. "I'm from Florida, so I'm right near where the Parkland shooting happened, so going here really brings out the spirit to support everyone."

The race began with a moment of silence, before taking runners around campus and ending up on the Drillfield near the memorial site.

Bonavita carried an American flag the whole way - a symbol of how the events of April 16, 2007, rippled far beyond the boundaries of Blacksburg.

"On that day, all of America came," he said. "It wasn't just Hokies in Blacksburg. It's Hokies and people from all across America, so I think it's important to recognize that as we remember that it wasn't just Blacksburg coming together, it was the entire nation coming together."

Tuesday's memorial events will strike a more somber tone, with a ceremonial candle lighting and wreath-laying ceremony on the day's 12th anniversary.