So many moments make up a marathon. All uniquely personal, but when looked at together they truly embody what it means to #BeBoston. Help Karen reach her fundraising goal and make it her moment.
Karen and her daughter, Kristen, warming up for some training miles.
Karen’s two daughters and niece racing together.
Karen grew up watching the race with her father in Coolidge Corner. She passed the love of Marathon Monday onto her daughters, and now has taken on the challenge of conquering the course herself.
Marathon Monday. Growing up in the Roslindale section of the City of Boston we were lucky enough to be close to the Boston Marathon course. On Marathon Monday we would listen to the broadcast and when the runners got to a certain location, Dad would tell us to jump in the car and off we would go to our spot in Coolidge Corner. It was uncanny how he would time it perfectly so that we would see the elite runners pass. It was thrilling to see these athletes close up and watch them as they whizzed by. Although active as a kid and teen, I was never a runner and marveled at the feat these men and women were accomplishing. Dad would have us stay to cheer on the “back of the packers” as well. He said that they really needed our cheers more than the elites, so we would cheer on all the runners, slow and fast alike, because that’s what made this race so special. In Dad’s opinion, those who ran it just because they could, and in later years for charities, were the ones who deserved the accolades. Their hard work and tenacity, while juggling the demands of everyday life, was to be admired and respected. They sacrificed so much to train for and run this race, and we could take the time to stand there and cheer them on. I didn’t mind at all. I loved the crowds and the atmosphere.
When I had my girls I passed the tradition along to them. Every Patriots Day off we’d go to Coolidge Corner to meet my parents. They enjoyed the event as much as we did. The older I got I watched some of the runners and thought to myself, ‘how can they possibly be achieving this? It was difficult for me to comprehend some of the body types that were running, and of course how could anyone run in a costume? These were abilities that always amazed me.
The girls tackled the course as adults and have all run multiple times along with one of my nieces. We switched our spot to Heartbreak Hill to see them and give them nourishment and encouragement. It was thrilling to see our family members be part of this historic race, one that we held so close in our hearts. In 2013, all three of them were on the course.
As the girls passed us that day, I ran to the car to try to get farther down the course in case they needed me. One of my girls had a broken bone in her foot and wasn’t sure she’d make it to the finish. Driving along I got a call from my sister who was in Boston already and she told me the news. The last call I received before cell service was stopped was a voicemail from my husband, a Boston police officer who was at the finish line, who told me he was okay, but was worried about where the girls were. His usual strong voice was wavering and I knew then that it was bad. My brother, a member of the BFD, was at the second explosion while Kevin was at the first. For 90 long minutes we weren’t sure where the girls were and of course our imaginations got the best of us. When we finally got the call they were okay, I went to get them and we all watched in horror later at the video coming in from the scene. The cooperation of first responders and volunteers alike was evident in that footage and something truly remarkable to see, and my husband can attest to that. This horrific event was thankfully overshadowed by the selflessness of people that day and truly showed what a wonderful community we are a part of and what an important event this is. Our family was extremely lucky for we were physically okay, but the emotional scars that were present on Kevin and my brother are still something they struggle with. While an extremely accomplished police officer, Kevin had enjoyed working under a veil of anonymity. That Patriots Day it all changed when he became literally front and center of a now iconic image that was published around the world. The attention it drew deepened his survivor’s guilt and truly affected him. He has worked through it, coming out very whole on the other side, and in 2014 was at the finish line once again to welcome my girls and to take back the joy this race has brought to so many. He once again made the papers, but this time it was in a joyful photo hugging our youngest at the finish.
I’m taking on this challenge because this race has meant so much to me, as well as to my family. Although I no longer live in the city, it will always be a part of me as I was born and raised there. I’m running for a charity that empowers women and benefits a foundation started by the first woman to run as a registered runner back in 1967, Kathrine Switzer. In a way I’m repaying her a debt because she paved the way for girls like mine to be able to participate in sports without gender bias. The marathon training has been more than I would have imagined, and the fundraising is like a second full time job, but luckily I have had the support of family and friends to help me through it all. Our last long run was the other day and gave us the ability to see the beginning of the course. This run more difficult than I had envisioned. I’m coming back from an injury and had difficulty completing my “cleared” minimum miles. I thought of all those times I was a spectator smugly thinking if, ‘they can do it, I can do it.’, and suddenly I was channeling my father. I was no better than any one of the thousands, perhaps millions, who have taken this on before me, and how dare I think that. I thought of the people I encountered during my run that day. New acquaintances and strangers alike were encouraging me to keep on moving, asking me if I was okay, did I need anything, and come on, you can do it! The course was filled with runners of all types, men and women, fast and slow, old and young, some dressed in costumes, some not, and no one judged any other. No one called any one out for moving slowly, for stopping to stretch, for walking when they needed to. It was just the opposite. It renewed my faith in people and I personally experienced the kindness of those on the course, and for that I am very grateful.
I’m looking forward to so many moments along the course April 17th. One of my daughters and one of my nieces will be among the masses and they will be ahead of me paving the way for the old lady. With a renewed respect for the course and the people who take on its challenge, I will move forward taking in the sights and sounds around me, cheers from T.J. Spirits, screams from the women at Wellesley College, and the Johnny Kelley statue. As I conquer Heartbreak Hill I hope to see friends and family waiting for me with some nourishment and hugs. When I pass the students at Boston College I’ll be anxiously anticipating Coolidge Corner for here is where I hope to get some angel’s wings for my feet in order to get me to the finish. As I tackle the last few miles I will be looking to reclaim my favorite event, as well as the joy it has brought to so many before me. I hope to empower other men and women who dream of running this race, and show them that age is a number, dreams can come true, and perseverance will win every time. But mostly I look forward to the moment where I see my husband waiting patiently and proudly for me to cross the finish line. Kevin, thank you for waiting for this turtle! xo