So many moments make up a marathon. All uniquely personal, but when looked at together they truly embody what it means to #BeBoston. Help Steve reach his fundraising goals and make it his moment.
Steve and his parents at the Chicago Marathon.
Steve Wechsler has known he wanted to run the Boston Marathon since he was a young boy, but his father’s recent ALS diagnosis was the motivation he needed to make 2017 his year!
I don’t know how long I kept them. Too long is probably what my parents would say. I know we washed them over and over again, but I still remember that the white never really returned to full white, permanently stained the color of tea from sweat. The cotton-knit gloves that I felt lucky enough to catch, discarded by a runner at mile 13 of the Boston Marathon. Thinking of it now, I remember it like a space shuttle ditching its fuel tanks en route to some far off place, seeking some sort of glory I didn’t yet understand.
That’s my first marathon memory. Growing up in Holliston, Massachusetts, Patriots Day meant not only a day off from school, but it meant heading to Wellesley with the family for Marathon Monday. I’d stand with my mom, dad and older brother, grabbing as many high fives as I could. Those moments when a runner acknowledged me, veered to the right side of the road, and left my hand slick with sweat… I think those moments were seeds being planted.
Those seeds would have plenty of dirt to grow through though, as I, myself, grew up and away from the marathon and actually learned to despise running as a product of forced team practices and sprints.
Eventually I moved away from home for college and graduate school. Maybe it was a matter of distance making the heart grow fonder, but at some point I laced up my shoes by choice and began running. Then it became tradition. Every June, my brother and I would return home, seemingly with a larger and larger contingency of friends, to run the Sharon Timlin 5k to Cure ALS. We ran it in memory of my dad’s mom, Grandma Jo, who was diagnosed with ALS and passed away before my brother or I got to meet her. Somehow, I established myself as the runner to beat, annually waiting with open arms for the rest of our team to cross the finish line. Ironically enough, that finish line lies less than a mile from the starting line of Boston.
I set a goal. Move to New York City, run New York City. In the fall of 2012, I moved to my dad’s hometown of New York and checked off the first half of that goal. The moment registration opened for the 2013 marathon, I was ready. I committed to run in support of a charity, Prize4Life, raising money to support vital ALS research. I had never run a race longer than a 5k before!
On November 3rd, 2013, I completed my first marathon, running the streets and bridges of NYC. For the first time, I was handing out those high fives rather than seeking them. When I crossed the finish line on that bitter cold day, something was ignited. Somewhere between stumbling home like a zombie, vowing to never run a marathon again, and learning to walk down stairs backwards…. I decided I needed more. Chicago. Chicago, then Boston. The trifecta.
Chicago came on October 11th, 2015. It was even more special as this is the hometown race of the girl who I’d met while training for New York. Our first date was a 10-mile run – the easiest 10 miles of my life, still to this day. Now we headed to the Midwest to run the streets of the Windy City. The fast course allowed me to shave 19 minutes off my first marathon time. New York and Chicago: checked off the list. Everything was going according to plan.
Then, in March of 2016, life reared its ugly head and uprooted any plans and feelings of stability we thought we had. The same month that my dad turned 63 years old, he was diagnosed with ALS. I was 28 at that time, the same age that he was when his mother was diagnosed. I’ll never forget that moment. My girlfriend and I had just moved into a new apartment with the help of my brother, sister-in-law and my parents. We cracked beers, sat on the hardwood floor of the living room, and Dad told us that he had some news.
Hopeless. Helpless. Confused. Angry. Scared. Devastated.
This was my best friend telling me that our worst fear – a fear we had never put into words before – had come true. The following days and weeks were a blur as we grappled with this news, alternating from grief to denial to laughter and back to grief. Such uncertainty. No tests to wait on, no procedures to schedule.
As the weeks continued on, we found ourselves as a family standing together in a new place. We returned home in June for the Sharon Timlin 5k with a renewed purpose. Dad walked the entire course, flanked by hordes of supporters old and new. With the final tenth of a mile remaining, Dad looked at us said, “Let’s go,” and took off jogging. We crossed that finish line hand-in-hand, tears in our eyes, smiles on our faces, our hearts overflowing with pride. It struck me. Now was the time for Boston.
I’m fortunate enough to have been sponsored to run the 2017 Boston Marathon by the ALS Association Massachusetts Chapter. I’m running for my Grandma Jo. I’m running for my dad. I’m running for my mom, my brother, and for myself. I’m running for other families that have and are currently struggling with this devastating diagnosis. I’m running for the fact that there is no proven effective treatment or cure. I’m running because our time is more limited than we realize.
Now just a few weeks away, when I envision running Boston, I look forward to several moments. I look forward to seeing my family along the racecourse. I’m sure they’ll be standing in Wellesley where I caught those gloves so many years ago. I look forward to standing on top of Heartbreak Hill, having proved that sometimes willpower is enough. I look forward to crossing the finish line, finishing the third leg of my marathon trifecta. The moment I’m most looking forward to is being in my father’s arms and hearing him say that he’s proud of me.
Steve’s dad shares his experience with ALS. Within days of its publishing on Facebook, Bill Wechsler’s ALS video received over 150,000 views!