Guest Post from a Boston Marathon Runner
Hello my name is Laura LaValley Morris from Massachusetts. I ran the 2013 Boston Marathon. And this is my story.
My motivation to run the Boston Marathon stemmed from my daughter Momo’s journey with childhood cancer that began when she was two and a half years old. Running a marathon is the most symbolic way for me to represent her battle and courage.
I’ve been a jogger for many years on and off but didn’t start racing until last year. I entered the 2012 Holyoke Saint Patrick’s Race with Griffin’s Friends, an amazing group of people who dedicate their time to bringing moments of joy to kids with cancer in Western Massachusetts. Then, I caught the racing bug. The vibe of a race is so inspiring. The spectators encouraging you is motivating. I decided that day I would train and run the marathon.
So, I entered a lot of local 5 and 10K races and kept upping my miles until I felt comfortable with an eight mile distance. I had an unfortunate hamstring injury in June 2012 that slowed me down, but didn’t stop me. I rehabilitated it with physical and home therapy and was back to baseline by November.
I dedicated myself to training for the Marathon on Dec 1st when I attended the first official group training run with Griffins Friends. I was able to do that first 6miles with no trouble, so I figured I would go with the flow and continue to follow a training program to see what happened. I signed up for the Oleksak Half Marathon in Westfield, Massachusetts in March. If I was able to run thirteen miles, I might as well go all the way in April!
I kept motivated by going on long runs with friends, like the Boston Twenty Mile Training Run, with all of the charity runners from multiple organizations pictured below.
Also a fellow “cancer mom”, Joanna was a great encouragement for me. When I felt like I couldn’t do anymore, I would try to chase her…and somehow got through. She is my beacon. I am drawn to her light and the sound of her feet hitting the ground. I thanked God for her often during our training runs and along the marathon route.
On race day, we donned our Thrift Shop Duds and headed to Hopkinton. At the start of the race, I wore my bathrobe for the first quarter mile. I handed it off to a man on the side of the road collecting clothes. I was all smiles and full of zest. I high-fived every kid who had their hand out the entire time and soaked in words of encouragement from onlookers. To hear people yell “GO MOMO’s MOM” was awesome.
I felt incredible until Mile Thirteen when my feet started to hurt. But I ran on.
At Mile Fifteen, we stopped and stretched. I did some praying because next on our journey was “Heart Break Hill”. I tackled the hill with pain in my feet that resembled labor, but made it to Mile Twenty. In retrospect, I am blessed that we stopped and stretched those few times. Those stops very well could have saved my life.
At Mile Twenty, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I had forty dollars with me in case I needed to take a cab, but my inner voice told me to truck on. My goal was to get to Mile Twenty-Four so I could see my son, Andrew, my sister, Martha, and all of our Griffin's Friends. I visualized the sea of blue and kept my eyes on the horizon with Joanna in front of me. I put one foot in front of the other and moved on.
As I came down the hill at Mile Twenty Four, all I could do was smile. All of my pain was GONE the second I saw the blue shirts hanging on the signs. I waved like a fool and grinned from ear to ear when I saw my son.
He leaped into my arms. I felt amazing, like all that I had just been through was worth it.
My daughter with cancer was unable to make the marathon, but we brought a life size cut out of her. I gave it a huge hug and kiss! This was my moment of joy!
At Mile Twenty-Four we heard about the explosion. At that point, we thought it was just a grill or something. The runners were being rerouted; so we carried on. It wasn’t until I got to Mile 25.13 that I found out. There were people runners and spectators in swarms walking toward us. We ran into two of my Griffin’s Friends teammates who updated us and told us where the team was meeting.
It felt like a dream, or like time had stopped. Our phones weren’t working except for texting but that was spotty. Thousands of people were just standing around, looking dazed and not sure where to go.
We stopped at 25 and regrouped. Griffin’s Friends organizers were watching out for us. They gathered all of the runners and did a head count. They found a safe route to our bus. I was able to text my husband at this point to tell him we were all ok and reach my sister again to confirm they were safe. This kept me calm.
We had to walk a mile to get to our bus. Anxiety built during that time about getting on a bus. I was very fortunate that another teammate’s husband was there with his truck to take us home; we did not have to wait to get home.
I was catatonic on the drive back. I was internally processing the day and trying to respond to all my emails, phone calls and text messages so that everyone knew I was alright. Martha and Andrew were at Mile Twenty-Four. I was very concerned about them, but thankful I was able to keep in touch with them the whole time. I was blessed that she was there. She supported him and focused on the helpers that day so he would remember the experience in a positive way.
The first day after the marathon was the hardest physically and emotionally. I found myself asking a lot of ‘what if’s’. And thanking God for everything in my life.
Today, I am returning to baseline. I am very reflective and I am thankful for everything in my life. Physically my feet are feeling better, after some serious icing. My body is moving more fluidly. I think all will be just fine.
I know now that I am blessed to have an intuitive inner voice. I believe ‘Positive Brain Power’ can get you through the worst moments and pain, both physically and emotionally. And the power of distraction is very important when your ready to give up.
Would I run the Boston Marathon again? I’m not sure. I think I will go as a Griffin's Friends spectator next year and then reassess my goals! I have never been more happy to NOT finish my first marathon! I will run another a marathon someday, but for now I’ll stick with smaller goals.
What is the one thing I would like to share with the world after The Boston Marathon of 2013? I believe gratitude and giving back in this world will help you to see your life from a different perspective. It will FILL up your glass and make everyday sparkling.
*Laura has been a Nurse Practioner since 2002. Prior to that, she worked in Emergency Department and Med/Surg Nursing as an RN.*
Griffin’s Friends is a group of volunteers dedicated to providing support to children with cancer. Founded in 1994 in Springfield, Massachusetts, Griffin’s Friends is named for Griffin D. Kelleher, who passed away at 14 months of age after a courageous battle with cancer. His legacy is this special group which supports, in a unique way, children in treatment for cancer and their families.
Griffin’s Friends established the “Griffin’s Friends Children’s Cancer Fund” at Baystate Health Foundation, Inc., which is funded by donations from fund-raising activities organized by Griffin’s Friends volunteers.
Griffin’s Friends raises funds in the name of, and on behalf of, the Griffin’s Friends Children’s Cancer Fund at Baystate Health Foundation, Inc., which is a tax-exempt, nonprofit entity that supports the nonprofit entities in the Baystate Health system, including, but not limited to, Baystate Medical Center, Inc. Charitable contributions to the Griffin’s Friends Children’s Cancer Fund at Baystate Health Foundation, Inc., are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.