Written by: Jaclyn Curley.
It was a hot Sunday night in New York City. I was alone in my studio apartment, completely unaware that my mother had just suffered a major stroke, a stroke so severe that the doctors weren’t sure if she’d ever be able to see or speak again.
Words cannot describe how fortunate, lucky, and blessed we were that she was still in the hospital recovering from heart surgery when it happened. The doctors acted immediately which significantly reduced the damage done to her brain.
My family and I spent the rest of that week visiting my mother in the intensive care unit before she was moved to a regular room, a rehab center, and then eventually home. As New England Patriots (American football team) fans , we were naturally drawn to linebacker Tedy Bruschi’s inspirational stroke survival story as proof that Mom would be back to her old self before we knew it.
In the first few months she made great progress. Her speech improved slowly and she was getting back to her old routine, perhaps a little too quickly, when we had a setback…another small stroke.
As if the first two, back in August, weren’t enough, this one shook me to the core. I was hundreds of miles away from my family and completely helpless/useless in the situation. Before getting off the phone with my dad, he told me, “Stay positive, we’re going to get through this as a family”. At that moment I knew I needed to do something, anything, to show my mom how much I supported her recovery, even though I couldn’t physically be with her.
While searching for an answer, I came across the Tedy’s Team, charity runners for the Boston Marathon. At that point I had never run more than 8 miles in my life and had no idea what marathon training would entail, but I knew I needed to be a part of it. With that in mind, I sent them an email begging and pleading to be part of the team and waited.
In January 2008, with less than 3.5 months till the marathon, I received another life changing phone call from Tedy’s team asking me if I wanted to run the Boston Marathon for the Stroke Association. Without hesitating, I said, “Yes!” and joined my mom on the most physically challenging journey of our lives.
The day of the marathon I was terrified. About 18 miles in, I remember thinking to myself, “Why would anyone EVER do this more than once?!?!” But as I took that last left hand turn down Boylston towards the finish line and saw my family cheering me on, it all became clear.
Fast forward nine years, I have not only run a marathon more than once, but I officially completed my 30th marathon in April 2017 in my home city of Boston.
Boston has always been my favorite marathon. Unfortunately, this year, it fell on a day that was hotter than expected, 27 degrees, making it the second hottest marathon I’ve ever run. But the good thing was that it was perfect weather for spectating and the course was packed!
With the heat, the first few miles were harder than expected and my asthma started playing up, so I decided then I was going to focus more on enjoying the run than going for a time, which I managed to do. From about mile 5 onwards, I’m pretty sure I saw a friend, my family or Tedy’s Team supporters at every mile and it was such a boost!
A few miles into the race, I noticed something pretty special: I was running alongside Katherine Switzer, the first woman to ever run the Boston marathon in 1967! Back then, women weren’t allowed to run marathons: women weren’t strong enough; it could hurt our chances of having children; and a whole host of other reasons that women have proven wrong thousands of times over for the last 50 years thanks to Katherine.
In 1967, she was nearly dragged off the course by the race director and even though she finished, she was disqualified because of her gender. Since then she’s been an advocate for women in sports. I had met her in 2013 and think she’s incredible which I told her around mile 7. Several miles later, we were still running a similar pace and in the end, we probably ran about half of it together. It was empowering, surreal and something I’ll never forget. My 30th marathon wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for her!
If that, the Wellesley scream tunnel, heartbreak hill, my family at mile 22 and that left hand turn down Boylston Street weren’t enough, four of my closest friends were volunteering at the finish line and handed me my medal when I crossed. There’s certainly no place like home!!
Even more important than the running itself, I’ve been so humbled and fortunate to have raised close to $130,000 for the Stroke Association across the UK and US. The number of people I’ve met along the way and shared this journey with has been absolutely incredible. And while I wish my mother never had to suffer 3 strokes for me to experience this, I couldn’t imagine my life without the people I’ve met through Tedy’s Team and Ful-on Tri! Certainly a case of making lemonade out of lemons!