The 15 guys in the neon orange T-shirts with big black letters "Run for Rick" were easy to spot Sunday at Assiniboine Park.
They had a mission, as did the others among the 2,700 runners at the Winnipeg Police Service's ninth annual half-marathon and two-person relay in support of Cops For Cancer (Winnipeg Iron Cops) on Sunday.
The guys in orange were soccer players running with their buddy and in the memory of his dad, former marathoner Rick Smoke. So when the last one crossed the finish line, Smoke's widow and son found their emotions close to the surface.
"It's an honour to Rick and it's an honour to Scott that his friends... ," Carole paused, her voice cracking as she struggled for words.
Her son, Scott, said he'd never run a marathon in his life and only made the decision a few weeks before his father died suddenly. He never expected his friends to join him.
"I'd never run a marathon before, and once my dad passed away, some of my friends and the soccer team volunteered to run in his memory," Scott said.
The guys made their promise come true Sunday.
Smoke, 59, died unexpectedly in February after a freak complication following routine surgery.
The effort by Scott's friends moved mother and son beyond the power of words. In the end, they shared a hug, tears welling in their eyes.
Under mild skies, the race started shortly after 8 a.m. just east of the Assiniboine Park footbridge after a moment of silence to remember the tragic events at the Boston Marathon last month.
The second wave of runners started at 8:30 a.m.
The odds-on favourite for the Winnipeg Police Service was Sgt. Jim Anis, a marathoner who'd raced in Boston last month.
In the end, he lost to a cadet recruit by a mere eight seconds among the cops who ran, but he said this year was about more than running.
"I dedicated this run to my son and to Boston," Anis said.
On April 15, the police sergeant passed the finish line and collected his wife among the spectators half an hour before pressure-cooker bombs exploded killing three people and injuring more than 260 at the Boston Marathon.
That close brush was followed days later by another one.
Anis said his son, Jason, 15, was cycling when he was hit by a car going 70 kilometres an hour on Bishop Grandin Boulevard. He suffered a concussion but no serious injuries.
"We have gone through a lot and we're just trying to carry on normally," he said.