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"Come What May, I Will Run"

Sat, Apr. 22, 2017 Posted: 03:56 AM

“Come what may, I will run.”

I picture every runner of the Boston Marathon echoing these words of Ahimaaz, who was determined to run to King David to deliver the news of victory in battle (2 Sam. 18:23). Each one has his or her own reasons and faces unique challenges and hardships, but all are absolutely determined to run the race, despite the obstacles.

In 1966, Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb applied to run the Marathon but was denied entry. “Women aren’t allowed, and furthermore are not physiologically able,” wrote the race director. At that time, AAU rules did not allow women to run more than a mile and a half competitively, but Gibb had been training for Boston every day for two years, sometimes running as much as 40 miles in a day. Fired up, she took a four-day trip on a Greyhound bus from her home in San Diego, arriving in Boston the day before the race. On race day, she slipped into the pack with the men and ran the entire route, becoming the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon.

A year later, Kathrine Switzer registered for the race under the name “K. V. Switzer.” She received bib number 261 and took her place with the men at the start line. Partway into her run, an angry race official tried to grab her and pull her off the course bellowing, “Get the hell out of my race, and give me those numbers!” Her boyfriend, an ex-All American football player, tackled the official out of the way, and Switzer finished the Marathon. This year, on the fiftieth anniversary of her historic run, Switzer ran again with bib number 261, at age 70. Her foundation, 261 Fearless, was created to “provide networking, healthy running support and education, and a sisterhood to women all over the world. It is the mission of 261 Fearless to bring active women together through a global supportive social running community—allowing fearless women to pass strength gained from running onto women who are facing challenges.” The BAA has retired Switzer’s number in her honor.

Running the Marathon to raise money for worthy causes has a long history. In 1946, Styliano “Stelios” Kyriakides sold his furniture to buy a ticket to come to Boston from his war-torn village in Greece. Although he had not competed for six years and was physically depleted from the famine conditions in his country—some doctors in Boston advised him not to run at all for fear he would die in the streets—somehow he summoned up the strength to give it his all for his homeland, shouting “For Greece!” as he crossed the finish line as the winner. He appealed to America to help his country, and he returned to Greece with cash and 25,000 tons of supplies for his people.

Today, thousands of athletes run for charitable causes and to honor loved ones. My friend Paul Reardon ran for Spaulding Hospital’s Race for Rehab team for the third time, again raising thousands of dollars for those “living with or recovering from illness, injury, and disability.”

Brian Alexander, a US Army Captain, ran for the Rodman Ride for Kids, to raise money to serve at-risk children in Massachusetts. The youth they serve are “homeless, seriously ill, academically at-risk, economically disadvantaged, living in foster care, have developmental disabilities, abused or neglected, malnourished.” Their mission is “to have every kid in our community live as we would want our own kids for live.” #brianrunsbostonforkids

On the Saturday before the Marathon, hundreds of military members and civilian supporters do a 26.2-mile marathon route through Concord, Massachusetts. Participants in the “Tough Ruck” carry full packs, along with the names of fallen service members. In addition to honoring the fallen, they raise funds to support military families. Finishers become the first to receive the Boston Marathon medal. My daughter Christine has now earned a third medal for her participation in the Tough Ruck.

Each athlete has very personal reasons for making the sacrifices necessary to run Boston. Belinda Stoll witnessed firsthand the 2013 bombings and wanted to run for her grandchildren. When she arrived at the finish line, she was looking for another grandma to bestow her medal. I was honored to place her medal around her neck. Another woman crossed the finish line with her five children, each one wearing a T-shirt with one letter: G-O-M-O-M.                        

Mark Sullivan had run thirty consecutive Boston Marathons and was determined not to let knee surgery forty days before the 2017 race stop him. He did complete his thirty-first Boston—174 marathons in total!

Last year I posted a picture of Tyson Park finishing his fourth consecutive Boston Marathon barefoot. This year he made it five in a row, at age 75!

These folks have received the Six Star Finisher medal for completing six major marathons—in Tokyo, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York City, and now Boston.

In last year’s Marathon report I featured Earl Granville, a US Army veteran who lost his leg in Afghanistan and completed the Marathon on a handcycle, and Andi Marie Piscopo, who did the 24-hour GoRuck Heavy two days before running Boston. This year they ran together—Earl on his prosthesis and Andi as his partner and guide. In a memorable Marathon moment, Earl carried Andi across the finish line, as she carried the American flag. Their emotional finish was captured on TV and has spread all over social media, inspiring thousands.

We will never know all the hardships faced by so many athletes just to get into the Boston Marathon and then to run it and finish, but I hope that getting a glimpse into some of their stories will inspire you to run your own life race with courage and perseverance.

To read my reports from previous marathons, see “Terror at the Marathon” (2013), “United We Stand” (2013 follow-up), “All Shall Be Well” (2014), “Let Us Run with Perseverance” (2015), and “They Fought the Good Fight, They Finished the Race” (2016).

Diane Castro