It Began with Uncle Kevin

Samantha Simmons grew up in Brookline, MA with her parents and younger sister, Marissa. She played soccer, lacrosse and ran indoor track while growing up and throughout high school. And like a lot of American kids, she experienced some soccer burnout, so in college, she traded in her soccer jersey for a ‘show’ jacket and rode for the Trinity College Equestrian Team.

It never mattered what sport she was playing and it doesn’t matter now, Samantha just loves being an athlete. Sure, it’s about the training, the hard work and the dedication but for Samantha, it’s the commitment that she can make to others that moves her most. Whether it was her teammates or yes, her horse, she felt a strong bond to each of them. And to this day, that sense of commitment lives very deep in her.

In 2014 her Uncle Kevin was diagnosed with stage-four melanoma and although his immediate outlook seemed hopeless, the brilliant care of the Dana Farber Institute team helped him live much longer than expected. It was at that moment that Samantha’s athletic career changed. She became a marathoner. She ran Boston for the very first time as a charity runner with the Melanoma Foundation of New England, a small team of great people and a wonderful organization. She ran it for Kevin.

Samantha continues to run today for cancer research and as a commitment to others. It’s their strength that inspires her. She often runs with her best friend Katy and the two of them are driven to run for their friend Claire, a breast cancer survivor; she runs for her friend Ashley’s mom; she runs for Ashley too, who is a cancer survivor herself; and this year Samantha ran Boston again in honor of a close friend’s father who’s battling pancreatic cancer.

Today, Samantha runs for the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge team. They’re a team of 500 runners who believe, “we’re racing towards the ultimate finish line: a world without cancer.” Every day she’s motivated by each of them, especially, Ashley, Jordan, Ben, Scott, John, Lindsey and, of course, Katy. They’re some of her closest friends now and she feeds off of their unwavering willingness to put in the training and the miles, especially on those bleak, miserable January mornings that a Boston winter throws at them.

Samantha is studying for her MBA at Boston University and this summer she’s working in San Francisco as an intern at DroneDeploy, a tech firm building cloud-based software for drone mapping. Her future athletic goal is to someday complete the six Abbott World Marathon Majors.

Each time Samantha steps to a start line she pledges her allegiance and love to Uncle Kevin; to Katy; to Ashley and her mom, and to every other friend, person and family battling cancer. Samantha has always been an athlete and now she’s a marathoner. We know for certain that she’s committed to doing her part to help make this a world without cancer. And we know it began with him.  It began with Uncle Kevin.

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A Story to Tell

Athletes love their routines. Their training regimens stay the same, their diets too. It makes them feel comfortable and secure. It’s about the familiar. It’s preparation. It’s their comfort zone.

But every so often we meet an athlete who thinks differently, an athlete whose comfort zone doesn’t fit in a tidy comfortable box. Sure, they still need their routines of training and nutrition but they’re looking for something else. They’re looking to experience something out of the ordinary and something different. They’re looking for a story to tell.

She’s run it six times. The first three as a ‘bandit’, the last three for the Krystle Campbell Memorial Fund team in memory of one of the three people killed in the April 15, 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line. It’s the Boston Marathon and she first ran it in 2005.

Kelly Hansen grew up in a small suburban town surrounded by the cornfields of Minnesota. A high school lacrosse player and slalom skier she headed east after graduation to attend Boston University. She fell in love with the city, its people and their ideas, its neighborhoods and its vibe. And it was 2005 when an ‘ex’ challenged her to run Boston. She didn’t train and she never registered but she stepped to the starting line in Hopkinton and ran as a ‘bandit’. She finished, proved someone wrong and happily gave up running for three years.  

36 months after her Boston ‘bandit’ run she noticed a flyer promoting the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Like so many others, LLS had an impact on Kelly’s life. While growing up in Minnesota, both of her maternal grandparents had died of Multiple Myeloma and it would be this cause and race that would kick start Kelly’s running career.  

It sits among the icebergs and the penguins. Its some 75 miles off the coast of Antarctica in the Southern Ocean and every March a couple hundred runners line up on King George’s Island to compete in what is known as The Last Marathon. She ran in it in 2010.  

Kelly graduated from BU in 2007 and entered a job market that had tanked. During college she had worked part time at a restaurant and to make ends meet she continued working there. She also found an unpaid internship at a post-production company in Boston. It wasn’t much but it was something, maybe a ‘foot-in-the door’, maybe not. But in one memorable week, a dishwasher, a producer and their stories, would change Kelly’s life forever.

He was from Africa and washed dishes at the restaurant. He told Kelly that he worked several jobs to send money home to his family and to his pregnant wife. His village needed a cow too. His story changed the way Kelly sees the world.   

A producer at a post-production company was a traveler. She shared with Kelly her experiences traveling east to west, north to south and country-to-country. Her stories inspired Kelly to see the world.

That was the genesis. That was the seminal moment in Kelly’s life when she needed to travel to run.

For the next two weeks Kelly planned. It wasn’t going to be about guided tours or sunny cruise ships. It was time to feel uncomfortable. It was time for new adventures and challenges. Three months later Kelly set out on a 10-month trip. She would cross the equator a couple times and travel over 43,000 miles! Her first stop was a marathon in Guayaquil, Ecuador; it was then on to Peru, Argentina, and a marathon in Auckland, New Zealand. From there she headed north to Japan, ran a marathon in Khon Kaen, Thailand, followed by adventures in Laos and Cambodia. Kelly left Southeast Asia and spent time in India, then tracked her way northeast to Nepal, where she hiked to the Mt. Everest Base Camp. The ‘almost-a-year’ trip ended with her running the Sweden Marathon in Stockholm, the Safaricom Marathon in Lewa, Kenya followed by a cool down stay in the United Kingdom.

Kelly was running marathons and hiking, experiencing different cultures and different foods, and always, coming out the other side of every journey, with a story tell.

They call it  ‘5,164 Steps Into History’ and it’s considered one of the world’s most challenging marathons. It’s run through villages and has a brutal switchback hill. Many of the original sections are a little more than rubble and its run on one of the world’s oldest and most recognizable structures. It’s the Great Wall Marathon. She ran it in 2013.

Since that first Boston Marathon in 2005 Kelly has run an additional 22 marathons. She’s traveled to 24 countries on all seven continents. In addition to the races we’ve already mentioned, she ran the 2500th Athens Greece Marathon; ran one in Reykjavik, Iceland; in DaNang, Vietnam; and a coast-to-coast Ultra Marathon, on Faial Island (Azores), Portugal; she ran a marathon in Havana, Cuba; and this past November, Kelly ran a race through the temples of Bagan, Myanmar.  

Today, Kelly has a successful career as an editor in a production company telling stories for world-class brands such as Puma, Toyota and Reebok. She will continue to travel and continue to run. She hopes to run the Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset Ultra Marathon; The Petra Marathon in the desert of Jordan; and the Patagonian International Marathon in Chile.  

For Kelly this journey was never completely about the running or even about her times. They’re important, but so are the people she’s met; like the kind and gentle 80 year-old who helped her with a flat tire in Myvatn, Iceland. It’s the foods she’s tasted; like a Christmas dessert of bees and grasshoppers marinated in soy sauce while in Kyoto, Japan. And it’s the cultures she’s experienced; like living in a bamboo and grass hut, along side water buffaloes in the middle of a rice field  in Goa, India.

All of this has great meaning to her. Every run and every hike is different. Every country and every experience is different. For Kelly that is the story. It’s the challenges and the possibilities, the fear and the reward. It’s what she loves about running and traveling. It’s Kelly Hansen’s story.

For more about Kelly check out her journal, her photos and her experiences at www.bebacksoon.life.

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We Find Athletes Everywhere

It’s parked on the corner of Boylston and Arlington streets, at the southwest border of Boston’s Public Gardens. Every Spring through every Fall, the Original Boston Frosty truck serves up ice cream, hot dogs and all sorts of other guilty pleasures to residents, college students and tourists.

We met him at the truck on one of those gorgeous Spring days in Boston. The kind of day that has you believe putting up with the snow, wind chills and the misery of winter, all seem worthwhile.   

Matt Dexter was working the Original Boston Frosty. That’s where we found him.  

Athletes are everywhere.

Matt grew up in Winchester, a suburb just north of the city. He comes from a family of athletes. Dad was a tennis pro, Mom a swimmer at St. John’s University. His two sisters played Division 1 soccer; K.C. at LSU, Ally at Boston University.

Growing up Matt played Little League, soccer and hockey. He went on to Belmont Hill of the Independent School League where he played soccer, hockey and golf and it’s where he discovered his love for fitness. Staying in shape, staying strong. Always. It was his future.

Matt continued his education at BU where he played club hockey and club golf but most importantly, it’s where he began training with Mike Boyle, the school’s strength coach and family friend. His future took root with Mike but like many of us his life took a detour after graduation. He played competitive golf for a time and worked in finance and accounting but none of it was enough. He needed to get to it, to the training and to the fitness. So Matt reconnected with Mike, entered the Internship Program at Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning (MBSC) and began his path to becoming a strength coach. His future was now.

MBSC had become arguably the most prominent name in strength and conditioning and as one of their coaches Matt had the opportunity to work with athletes, young and old, individuals and groups. He learned when to push and when to back off. He became a Certified Functional Strength Coach and a Functional Movement Systems Specialist. He’s Kettlebell Certified and can teach the Ultimate Fitness Experience, HIIT Group Training. He was ready. It was time for his own thing.  

In September of 2016, Matt and his partner, Danny Cooper launched their business, CodeX Strength, a fitness and performance facility on the South Shore of Massachusetts. They focus on building strength through functional movement, on training athletes of all fitness levels, on rehabbing injuries and on groups and individuals. They believe a client’s success is a partnership; one based on a custom program and a trusting client/coach relationship, one they call, training for life.

Matt once told us he believes there’s an athlete in everyone. Maybe they’re at your favorite café, sitting in the cubicle next to you or cutting your hair. Or maybe even in your favorite ice cream truck. They’re athletes. And they’re everywhere.

Check out Matt and Danny and the great work they’re doing at www.codexstrength.com

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“C’mon Fitz! That’s it! Let’s go Fitz!”

He still hears him when he runs today. It’s the same voice and the same cadence. It comes with the same inspiration and the same support that meant so much to him as a teenager. Peter O’Sullivan was more than a high school math teacher and a track coach. He was Coach O. And in four years he taught him how to run and how to compete. He taught him about life and he taught him about himself.

Michael FitzPatrick grew up in Dracut, MA, a town north of Boston that borders the state of New Hampshire. Like many kids today, Michael grew up playing soccer. But really, he just loved the running. He ran up and down, forward and backwards but the soccer ball seemed to just get in the way and it wasn’t until he attended Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, MA, when his running career really began.  

He was a freshman running cross-country for Coach O when he first realized that every stride has a purpose. Throughout his high school career Michael ran Varsity Indoor Track, Outdoor Track and Cross-Country. He specialized in the Distance Medley Relay, the Mile and the Two-Mile. He won the Coach’s Award as a junior and was Co-Captain of the Cross-Country team in his senior year.

Michael went to Ithaca College and as a freshmen he ran for the Varsity Cross-Country team and earned the Coach’s Award. More and more, he loved running. He loved the training and he loved training hard, pushing himself every day to run faster and to run harder. In his junior year he was heading into the NY State Meet ranked 17th in the Steeplechase event which is 3000 meters of running, hurdling and a water pit. The Steeplechase requires quick changes in speed, adapting to an approaching barrier, clearing it and resuming your race. It was that race that would challenge Michael’s training and endurance, and his ‘no days off’ training paid off, as he finished 7th overall in 10:00 minutes flat!  

April 20, 2013 was a glorious spring day in Boston. It was Marathon Monday.

Watching from the finish line on Boylston St. was Michael’s friend and coworker, Krystle Campbell, a young 29 year-old from Medford, MA. At 2:49 pm, the second bomb exploded 12 seconds after the first, and fatally injured Krystle. Michael had lost his friend. There was grief and denial, anger and pain. There was something he needed to do and something he was going to do. He was going to run for her.

After writing and requesting an Invitational Entry to the BAA, he began his annual, heartfelt tribute to Krystle in 2014, running a determined and blistering 2:58:56 Boston Marathon! It was a Boston qualifier his first time out and each year since, he’s qualified for Boston. And each year since he runs for Krystle.

At a very young age, Michael knew he was a runner. He’s always known. It’s what he does and he’s what he’ll always do. His running and specifically running Boston, helps him build new and happy memories. It helps him find peace and work through emotional stress. It’s helped him find a clearer path in life, devoted now to helping others achieve their running and fitness goals.

Our inspiration can come from anywhere. It can come from a parent. It can come from a teacher. For athletes, many times it comes from a coach, someone who changes his or her life. For Michael it came from Coach O, who would treat the last runner on the freshmen team in the same way as the elite runners on varsity.   

And decade’s later, Coach O’s whispered wisdom echoes longer and louder.

Athletes write their own story and Michael FitzPatrick’s not done writing his. There’s no doubt that there’ll be athletes who’ll remember his voice, his cadence, his support and most of all, his inspiration.

Looking for a great running coach or fitness trainer give Michael a shout:

Myfy77@gmail.com for run coaching. 

Michael@movementsciencesma.com for personal training. 

Sea Urchins

She had a poster hung for inspiration and a list on her nightstand for motivation. It was the USA Track & Field, All American qualifying standards for her age group. As a masters runner she knew it was reachable. It was hers and she wanted it. But then, without any warning, she started seeing them.

She first saw them in 2015 and described them as ‘black swooshy things’. They were dark spots that swooshed through her field of vision to distort everything. She wasn’t sure if there was something there or she was the only one to see it. But to her they were very real. She called them sea urchins.  

That January, Kathleen Rogan suffered a spontaneous, retinal detachment with multiple tears in her right eye and a few months later, the same happened to her left eye. Her vision narrowed. Every stride was questioned. Every road seemed uneven. The sea urchins seemed everywhere and suddenly, Kathleen’s running was stopped dead in its track.  

She would need surgery. It was tough and the rehab was grueling. It was weeks of alternately raising and lowering her head every 30 minutes. But more than that it was scary. What would the road ahead look like?

Kathleen grew up in Scotia, NY and today lives in Kingston, NY. She has a degree in theater from Skidmore College and spent many years as a teaching artist, providing professional arts education to homeless and at-risk children.

Growing up she wasn’t involved in sports but fell in love with the dance and aerobics fitness movement of the late 70’s and early 80’s. She became a certified instructor for many years and began running at the age of 44.

She first started running to support her autistic son, Travis, who felt uncomfortable running alone. She ran with him and her passion for running grew. She continued to run for him and her daughter Donna. She ran to inspire and teach them personal accomplishment, dedication and perseverance.  

Running has given Kathleen so much. She’s asthmatic and after years of running her pulmonary health has improved greatly. She’s served as a Girls On The Run Coach for several years, helping young girls to develop healthy self-esteem and coping skills. In 2013, she joined the IRUN4 Program that connects healthy runners with a buddy and Kathleen runs for a beautiful, young girl named Meg who has Down’s syndrome.  

Kathleen’s also a therapy dog handler and through Therapy Dogs International, is certified with her dog, Natalie, to work together in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and with hospice patients.

Today, Kathleen is running again but she never runs alone. She runs with a guide from Achilles International, an organization whose mission is to enable people with disabilities to participate in running events. They run together. Side by side and race by race. They ran together in the 2016 NYC Marathon. They ran together in Freihofer’s 5K Run for Women last month. They’ll always run together.

Kathleen’s vision may be impaired but she clearly sees what her running and her life need to be about. It’s about motivating others to overcome their own struggles. It’s about helping children. Community service. And it’s about advocating for the disabled.  

The sea urchins may still be there but her fear has passed. There’s a new poster for inspiration. There’s a new wall of photos with her sports role models and a wall with awards and medals. Every day they serve as reminder. They remind her that despite the odds, despite the setbacks and despite her disability, she will fight on.  

 

 

 

 

 

Numbers

Numbers define sports. They tell us how fast we run. Or how fast we swim. They tell us the score. And they can tell us how much time’s left in a game. They tell us who is first and who’s last. We need numbers to frame our sports because they separate things for us. We study them. We compare them. But most of all they give us a reference.  

For our story let’s start with these numbers.  

14 No Hitters. 3 Perfect Games. 3-time Collegiate All American. 4-time All Atlantic. 25 school records. 1,343 career strikeouts. 105 consecutive scoreless innings. 2000 Olympics Gold Medal Winner.

Number 44.  

For four years, Danielle Henderson wore that number for the UMASS Women’s Softball Team. From her pitcher’s mound she dominated opposing batters and delivered each 43-foot pitch with a singular purpose. Her numbers speak to that. Her dominance throughout her UMASS career earned her induction into the New England Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and in her senior year, she was awarded the Honda Player of the Year, given annually to the nation’s top collegiate softball player. And her number 44? It was the first jersey number ever to be retired in UMASS softball history!

Danielle grew up in Commack, NY and in third grade she started playing softball. She played soccer and basketball too but softball was her game, it would always be softball. She first learned to pitch at 15 and became such an accomplished pitcher that she finished her four-year college career with a 108-35 win-loss record, 72 shutouts, 135 compete games and a downright, nasty ERA of 0.70.

Talent.  Motivation.  Attitude.  

Lou Holtz, the legendary football coach once said, “Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.”

For most of us, sometimes it’s enough to have talent. For others it’s enough to have motivation. And for some of us we get by with attitude. But the elite athlete needs all of it and Danielle Henderson has it all.

Unlike sports, numbers don’t define Danielle. She has the talent; she’s always had the talent and her numbers prove that. And like all athletes at her level, she sees every day as an opportunity. She’s told us that it’s an opportunity to push, to accomplish, to stay positive and to reach beyond her limits. It’s this perspective that’s motivated her every day. And it’s Danielle’s strong willed attitude that she believes is her true gift. It’s a commitment to practicing hard and a commitment to playing hard.  

After the 2000 Olympics Games in Sydney, Danielle played professionally in the National Pro Fastpitch League. For the three years following, she was an assistant coach at Ohio State; went on to Stanford as an assistant coach and then returned to her alma mater, UMASS Amherst, to become the associate head coach. And today, Danielle is the Head Coach for UMASS Lowell River Hawks.  

19.  

This is the number that matters most to Danielle today. It’s a number that she watches over every day. A number she helps train and one she helps teach. It’s the number of players on her roster. For her, coaching is about giving back and her love for the game. She’s grateful to all the wonderful coaches who worked with her and thankful to the great sport of softball for everything it’s given to her.  

 

 

 

 

A Gift to Others

Hope is a gift we can give to ourselves, a belief that our tomorrow will be better. For some, hope comes from their heart. To others it’s a gift of their mind. And for some it’s their faith.

Hope is also a gift we can give to others.

He is 64 years old, a marathoner, husband and father of three daughters. He is living with HIV. He is living with brain cancer.  

Richard Brodsky is a giver of hope.

Jodi.

Richard was born in Brooklyn, NY, moved to North Woodmere when he was seven and graduated with a Bachelor of architecture degree in 1975. In 1978, he moved to Houston and through a local rabbi, he met his wife Jodi. Their first date was a running date. He wasn’t much of a runner, 3 miles at most, but they decided to run five. He figured he could talk his way through the pain and the miles, but Jodi would rather just run. The date didn’t go well. She wasn’t much interested but a car breakdown later, a good Samaritan ride from Richard, and they were engaged after three months.

And they haven’t stopped running. Jodi has run 61 marathons, Richard has run 56! We’re not sure whether Richard continues to run quietly, but he’s sure that running and being married to Jodi has saved his life.

Life Gets Tougher.

Although he had being living with HIV for five years, life was coming together for Richard in 2002. He had just completed a cross-country book tour promoting his first book, Jodi, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, was speaking at NYU and American University, signing books at Barnes & Noble bookstores, and Newsday had a featured article planned. Things were great. Couldn’t be better. Then he suffered a seizure at one of the book signings and was diagnosed with brain cancer. The doctors told him had only 2-4 years to live. But the doctors had no idea of his will. Of his determination. Of his heart. And a year later he completed the 2003 NYC Marathon.

He’s Running For Everyone Living with HIV and Cancer.

Each time he laces up that’s how Richard feels. 5K or marathon, it doesn’t matter, he’s giving hope. In 1998, one year after his HIV diagnosis, he ran the NYC Marathon in 3:23:23. He’s run several NYC marathons since. He’s run marathons in New Jersey, in Miami, in Ft. Lauderdale and in Jerusalem, where he raised $53,000 for Emunah Bet Elazraki Children’s Home. He’s also run a half in Quebec City. But his goal was to run another sub 4-hour marathon before he turned 65. At 62, he ran Hartford in 3:59:56! BOOM!  

For many marathoners it’s about Boston and about the BQ. It was July 2016 at the Nova Scotia Marathon and Richard needed a sub 3:55 to qualify for the 2017 Boston Marathon. He was running faster than he should. He was older. Has two terminal diseases and yet he qualified for by 90 seconds! But his timing bracelet had fallen off at mile one and it took him several precious seconds to retrieve it. With all the competition for Boston and qualifying times continually dropping, he got ‘bumped’ by 39 seconds. HIV couldn’t stop him. Brain cancer couldn’t stop him. But a damn timing bracelet did.

NYPD Police officer and fellow runner Jennifer Livingston had qualified for Boston but during her training she had suffered a fractured femur and labrum tear. Jennifer was done. Boston was done for her too. But Jennifer heard Richard’s story, contacted him and offered to transfer her bib to him. It was a wonderfully, kind gesture and it was hope for Richard. But the B.A.A. denied the request and bib no. 11590 never crossed the finish line.  

A Giver of Hope.

Richards greatest ‘run’ of all is The Richard M. Brodsky Foundation. Its mission is to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and cancer. They provide global, innovative outreach programs. And most importantly they give hope to Africa;  to some day have better access to doctors; to some day have better education; to some day have cleaner drinking water;  better nutrition and shoes. They provide food, shelter, and shoes for Kenyan orphans. He also runs the World AIDS Marathon in Kisumu, Kenya and his foundation will again be co-sponsoring this year’s race for the 12th straight year which he and Jodi will run again.

At home, the foundation sponsors the only AIDS run/walk on Long Island, free to anyone living with AIDS or cancer. He continues to run with the Greater Long Island Running Club and some day hopes to run the Athens Marathon.

Richard and Jodi will always run. Like the Foundation, running’s their passion. It’s their love. And it’s the way they give back. And more importantly, it’s the way they give hope.

For more about Richard and his Foundation visit the following links:
The Richard M. Brodsky Foundation:  www.richardmbrodsky.org
The Worlds AIDS Marathon:  www.worldaidsmarathon.com  
5K AIDS / Cancer Run / Walk in America:  www.5kaidscancer.com  
Richard's Book:  www.trebloon.com    

 

 

 

Eddie's Mom

Last week we received a nomination for our Featured Athlete Series from a young man named Eddie. His inspiration is his mom. His hero. Everyday she teaches him about life and how to overcome what might come his way.

So often we take the ordinary for granted. Each day we go about it; our family, our job, our workouts. We repeat. Life rolls on.  

But we all know life can come at us hard and fast.

Eddie’s mom is Jennifer Livingston, a NYPD Police Woman, a runner and most importantly a mother. And she’s someone who knows the lessons of life all too well.  

Jennifer grew up in Hicksville, New York a town on Long Island. She played some soccer but her passion was running. And she was fast. On a whim from the middle school track coach, she ran an 800m in 2:45! In high school she ran track and cross-country with so much success, received a full scholarship to Wagner College.

StatenIsland&Brooklyn&Queens&Manhattan&TheBronx&CentralPark

But life started coming hard and fast at Jennifer. She battled osteoporosis, broken bones and training setbacks, but nothing would stop her from running, nothing at all, and in 2014, she decided she needed to run the NYC Marathon. It would be her first. It was her city’s race, it was her home and on November 1, 2015 she finished the 45th NYC Marathon in a stunning 3:21! First marathon. Fast marathon! Her time would also qualify her for Boston 2017.

Las Vegas or Bust

It’s 120 miles from Baker, California to Las Vegas, Nevada, and in March, law enforcement teams from around the world, compete in The Baker to Vegas Challenge Relay. More than 250 teams and 8,000 runners participate. In 2016, Jennifer and the NYPD team made up of 20 policewomen from all different precincts and all ranks finished fourth overall. But a few weeks before the relay, life came hard at her again. She had torn her plantar plate in her foot but decided to hold off on surgery until after the race. Three miles into her 6 mile-leg she broke her foot, but she dug in, fought on and once again, proved herself NY tough.

Boston 2017

Once foot surgery was rehabbed it was time to train for Boston. When you qualify, you make time for Boston. You always make time for Boston. While training Jennifer began having pain in her right groin, she trained carefully, but suddenly the pain was in her left leg. She was done. Boston was done. She had suffered a fractured femur and labrum tear. Life, fast and furious!

Love, Faith and Grit

Today, Jennifer is on desk duty and rehabbing from hip surgery. She will be back; she always is and will soon be running again with her friends in the NYPD Running Club and the New York Road Runners.

As for Eddie, he’s an amazing and very special 11 year-old. A young man who has the maturity to know the gift his mother gives him every day. A young man in his own struggle with Asperger’s and a young man who could not ask for a better role model.

No matter how hard and fast life comes at Jennifer and Eddie, they’re ready. They’ll always be ready. For them it’s simple. It’s about their love, their faith and good old-fashioned, New York grit.

More

Training for a marathon is all about more. More miles, more time on your feet, more calories, more running shoes, more of everything! Most plans will suggest running 5 days a week. What happens to a runner when more isn’t possible? How do they still achieve their goals? That’s where Cynthia Martinez’s story begins.

Cynthia is more than just a runner. She’s a certified personal trainer who specializes in working with runners and endurance athletes. So she understands that sometimes less is more. Sometimes runners need to focus on quality over quantity, even during marathon training. This is a lesson that’s hard for many runners to accept. But, Cynthia can prove it works.

In 2015, Cynthia suffered a labrum tear in her hip. Because of that injury she is forced to limit the amount of time she spends running to just 3 days per week. Instead, she incorporates cross training, physical therapy, nutrition and recovery work such as massage and foam rolling. Last year she was able to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon in 3:18. Clearly, she is doing something right.

Cynthia is happy to share her experience and knowledge with other runners. This year she hopes to go bigger and finish the Boston Marathon in 3:08 all while staying with her plans to run less. She’s currently producing a 12 week web series in conjunction with Women’s Running Magazine sharing her tips and training plans.

In 2016, Cynthia ran in four continents, 11 countries and six states. It’s evident her love for the sport runs deep. Giving it up is not an option. With her modified training she hopes to stay healthy and continue reaching new goals.

Check out the link below to learn more about Cynthia and follow along with her web series.

http://womensrunning.competitor.com/2017/01/training-tips/cynthia-martinez-inside-boston-training_71234#P5UVoAOEVFc6yZ1S.97

Stepping Up For The Team

If you’ve played hockey you know the drill. You’re young. Just starting out. Everyone’s getting use to the game and then the Coach asks, ‘okay kids, any volunteers to play goalie?’ You stare at your skates, you shuffle and you fidget, hoping that someone steps up. And then some kid does.

Brittany Ott was that kid. 22 years ago she claimed that net and hasn’t left it since. 

Brittany grew up in St. Clair Shores, Michigan and learned to skate at the age of four. She followed in the footsteps of her older brother Aaron onto a hockey rink, began playing and always ‘stepped up’ to play goalie. Her position was set, she was a goaltender. She would always be a goaltender.  

Along with hockey Brittany played tennis and softball in high school. She was captain of her softball team during her junior and senior years and was named All-State in 2008.

She went on to play goalie for the University of Maine Black Bears and started all four years.  In 2009 Brittany was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and was the goaltender of the month in November of 2013. She recorded 69 saves against the Mercyhurst Lakers in 2010 and in a 2013 game against Boston College set a Black Bears record of 72 saves. That same year she was awarded the female ‘M’ (Maine) Club Dean Smith Award Recipient for the top student-athlete in the university.  

After graduating from Maine she joined the Boston Blades of the CWHL and played there for two seasons, capturing the Clarkson Cup in her second campaign. Today, Brittany minds the net for the Boston Pride of the NWHL and this season they will be defending the title of Isobel Cup Champions. She had a perfect 4-0 record in last year’s playoff run and was also named to the WNHL All Star team.

Hockey is a fast and fluid game and a goaltender is trained to react to certain situations in certain ways. But it’s also about the mindset. It’s about the ability to control emotions under constant, intense pressure. It’s about ‘letting it go’ after a goal is scored. It’s about will and determination. And maybe most of all, it’s about stepping up. Just like Brittany did 22 years ago. Just like she does in every game.

We’re excited and proud to have Brittany as one of our Democracy Of Sweat’s Team Athletes.

Jordan MacIntosh Joins our Team

You’re born in Canada, you play hockey. It’s what you do. It’s what everyone does. And it was no different for Jordan MacIntosh. Born and raised in Oakville Ontario, and like every other Canadian kid, he laced up skates, grabbed a stick and skated on the ice. He was four.

But a year later Jordan’s athletic life changed forever. He started playing lacrosse. Although, he played hockey until his junior year in high school, his new love was on a lacrosse field. And he flourished.

Jordan went on to play at the Rochester Institute of Technology as a midfielder and was a two-time All American, scoring 79 goals and 29 assists in just two seasons. He was named the Conference Player of the Year in 2010-2011 and that year was drafted fourth overall to the Minnesota Swarm of the indoor National Lacrosse League, where for the next two seasons was named a first team All Star.

In 2012, Jordan began playing for the MLL Rochester Rattlers. He was named team captain in 2015 and has been a perennial All Star selection since joining the club. His dedication, hard work and talent earned him a spot on Team Canada, the 2014 and 2015 World Champions.

Today, Jordan is continuing his professional lacrosse career; he works out year round and gives back by teaching. He coaches in the Hingham MA Youth Lacrosse Program and at home in Canada, works at EDGE Lacrosse and the Hill Academy. He plays a ton of golf, runs in the off-season and hopes to run some marathons when his career is over.

It doesn’t matter where you’re born or what sport you’re supposed to play. What matters is to find your sport and your passion; your drive and determination will do the rest. For Jordan MacIntosh he found his sport when he was five and every day since, his heart has told him he was right.

We’re excited and proud to have Jordan as one of our Democracy Of Sweat Team Athletes.

Our Newest Team Athlete

We're excited and proud to announce that Alicia Kittle has joined Democracy Of Sweat as one of our very first Team Athletes.  

As a young girl Alicia played softball, basketball and soccer. She swam, became a gymnast a dancer and much more. And as she grew she settled on softball. She was a catcher and one of her fondest memories is when her Lehigh Valley Flames won the NSA World Series. As a catcher she’s in a position that’s involved in every play and every pitch. A position that keeps moving.

For the last ten years she’s found weight lifting, running and CrossFit. She’s completed several Spartan races, 10 milers, 10k’s and 5k’s. She ran her first half marathon this past Spring, finished in 1:43, and next month will compete in her first marathon!

Alicia’s future plans are to compete as a CrossFit athlete and of course, to run.

Today, she’s still involved in softball as the Assistant State Director of the USSSA for eastern PA and NJ. They host softball tournaments for youth athletes, promote sportsmanship and friendly competition. And, oh by the way, Alicia’s also a Doctor of Audiology!

A Burpee Workout is the ultimate full body workout, used by football teams, CrossFit athletes and elite military personnel. It builds strength, burns fat, it’s terrific for conditioning and can be done anywhere. But brides? Alicia got married last year and you can see from one of the pictures below she was able to get her Burpee workout in during the reception! Not surprising from a woman who demands so much from herself. A woman who lives to play. And a woman who just keeps moving.

Welcome aboard Alicia, we’re honored to have you on our team.

 

His Spot

He had his spot. The end zone was where he would stand and he’d watch him play from that spot. Home or away it didn’t matter.  Rain or snow it didn’t matter. Some might think he liked to watch a play develop. Or maybe he was getting away from the nonsense in the stands.  Either way it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that he got a chance to see his son play.

Every young athlete follows footsteps. Sometimes it’s those of a coach, a professional athlete or a local sports star whose time has passed. But for Nick Bolio he found those steps at home. It was his dad and he wanted nothing more than to be him. Just like him.

From the time Nick learned to throw a baseball, he was there. The first time he learned to dribble, his dad was there. And when he gripped a football in his small hands, his dad showed him how.

Nick started playing Pop Warner football when he was seven and as a running back he helped his 2003 team finish as National Runner-Up, the best finish ever of a team from Massachusetts. In 2008 Nick’s Shepard Hill High School team won its first and only state Division 2 Super Bowl and he followed it up with a standout football career at Assumption College.

A three-sport star and a great all-around athlete, Nick was also the centerfielder on Shepard Hill’s varsity baseball team and starting guard on its basketball team. He was just like him.

His dad coached Nick until high school and he was at every practice and at every game. For all the records and MVP’s, for all the awards and all the wins, his dad was there. But the support and the car rides didn’t end with talk about a practice or a game, it went beyond that. It went to a place that every true athlete knows they must go and a place where a good athlete can become a great athlete. It was about the sacrifice needed, about his will and determination and the pride that hard work always brings.  

Today, Nick has different goals. His focus is on helping others reach theirs, whether it’s running a marathon, swimming competitively or power lifting he trains young athletes the way his dad trained him. As a fitness trainer he cherishes the benefits of strength and conditioning, and treasures the pride his athletes feel. Nick’s found his spot, just like him.

Nick Bolio walked off the football field for the last time in November of 2013. His dad’s spot is gone now and those end zone moments are too but remembering his dad’s excitement and feeling his pride will stay with him forever. Tom Bolio was a great athlete too and he's an even better dad. And most importantly he raised a great son, and yes, he's just like him.

Every Day is Wednesday

It was every Wednesday and she loved every minute of it. She was young, maybe five or six, but she remembers it like it was last Wednesday. They would hold hands and talk and like any loving dad, he would make her laugh and giggle. But the conversations went beyond cute little jokes and gentle tickles. They went to a place that she would need.  A place that would help her for the rest of her life.

Jenny Keefe’s father Henry, died when she was 14, a brutal age to lose a parent. But those weekly trips to the ice cream store saved her.  They strengthened her. And today, continue to inspire her. Jenny’s dad would talk to her about life, about working hard and about sports. He would talk about dedication, desire and will.

At the age of seven Jenny joined the Waltham Track Club and for the next 10 years she devoted her athletic career to running and to her father. She ran the 200m and 400m with all the heart he had spoken about. And when she became a mom, she passed on his legacy. Play sports she told her kids. Work hard she said. Don’t ever quit. And when they were old enough they ran for the WTC too.  

In 2003 Jenny’s running changed. She started to run long, about 50 miles a week. For her dad she set her sights on Boston and in 2010 successfully finished the world’s most famous marathon. But during that time she also needed something different. A new test and a new challenge. Something that required her strength, her endurance and her will. Jenny started hiking.

Her new journey began first on Mt. Moosilauke in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. And by the end of 2010 she had successfully hiked 48 of the White Mountains four thousand foot peaks. She had become a member of The Appalachian Mountain Club, Four Thousand Footer Club!  

No, this is not about rolling hills and endless meadows, holding hands or matching sweaters. It’s about grit and conditioning. Staying clear minded. Fighting off a sudden night storm of wind and hail on the southeast face of Mt. Washington and waking up 10 feet from the fall off to Tuckermen’s Ravine. It’s about the preparation and the nutrition. It’s about coming face-to face with an unhappy moose and her calf. It’s about toughness.

They have names like Goose Eye, Elephant and Pico. And they’re Jenny’s new challenge, New England’s tallest 100 peaks. Next on her list is Coe, number 90.

Hiking is Jenny’s therapy. It’s a time for reflection and sometimes the silence on her hikes is deafening. And sometimes the only sound she’ll hear is a pretty rendition of ‘Oh-Sweet-Canada’. It’s the song of the white-throated sparrow, a bird found only in the northern forests. The bird’s call brings Jenny comfort. It’s a constant. And it gently reminds her of the safety she felt with her father.

Jenny Keefe has not forgotten those ice cream Wednesdays. She’s not forgotten those lessons learned. She lives them on every hike and in every workout. She lives them every day. And she lives them for her dad.

Our First Brand Ambassador

We're so excited and proud to announce that Alyssa Gagliardi has joined Democracy Of Sweat as our very first brand ambassador. Alyssa's hard work, dedication to her sport, her will and her desire embodies the spirit that drives us to do what we do.

A Raleigh, N.C. native and a Cornell graduate, she's now plays professional ice hockey for the Boston Pride of the Women's National Hockey League. And she's good! Alyssa's played on the U.S. Women's National Team, was a 2014 Second Team All-American while at Cornell and the 2014 ECAC Co-Defensive Defenseman of the Year.  

She's also a leader and a woman who works to make life better for others. She was a 2014 Hockey Humanitarian Award Finalist; for three years organized 'Cops, Kids and Toys' raising money and collecting toys for local communities; and was also awarded the Mario St. George Boiardi Leadership Award, given annually to the Cornell varsity athlete who most embodies leadership, athleticism and work ethic.

Whether it's a team workout or a girl’s hockey clinic Alyssa does it with pride. Like her teammates she has not forgotten the true essence of sports. It's so simple, so pure and so human. Strip it down and sport gives us the chance for pride. The chance to earn something and to know without a doubt, you did this by your own sweat. Alyssa Gagliardi knows this is the greatest prize in sport.

Welcome aboard Alyssa, we're so glad to have you as part of our team.

Set Goals. Reach Goals. Reset

There is a common thread that all Democracy of Sweat Featured Athletes share. It’s a mindset. The mindset that has each of them setting personal goals and then following through until those goals are reached. Our newest Featured Athlete, Phil Stern of Winchester, MA, is no different. Well, in some ways he’s not different and in other ways, he is very different.  

Phil is what we at the Democracy of Sweat would call the Grand Poobah of goal setters. Setting and reaching goals is a way of life for Phil. He finds as much satisfaction in planning, training for and mapping out the logistics it takes to achieve his next goal (or as he calls it….his “next adventure”) as he does in ultimately achieving the goal. And based on Phil’s adventures, it’s a good thing.

What sets Phil apart? It’s his endless pursuit to find the next adventure and the creativity in which he approaches each challenge. Adventures like:

  • 50 Adventures in my 50th year. To celebrate the milestone birthday, Phil did winter hikes in the White Mountains, did multiple cross country ski explorations, climbed the Classic Whitney Gilman Ridge (even though he has a fear of heights), spent a week trekking in the Grand Tetons, biked 150 miles to a lobster shack in Maine, rode camels in India and finished off his 50th year by taking a Zumba class with his wonderful wife Julie on New Year’s Eve. In all, Phil checked off 50 adventures in his 50th year….And Dos Equis thought they had the most interesting man in the world.

  • Single Season Summer 48 4000-footers (SSS48). There are 48 mountains in New Hampshire that are at least 4000 feet above sea level. Beginning on June 21, 2014, Phil started up the Flume Slide Trail and on September 7, 2014, Phil’s 18th day of hiking, he completed the New Hampshire Four Thousand Footers by summiting Mt. Moosilauke with his wife, daughter and a couple friends. The feat was capped off by celebrating with cans of 4000 Footer IPA; of course it was. While the challenge of hiking the 48 mountains energized Phil, he found as much joy figuring out all the logistics….which peaks to string together, what loops are best, which hikes required a bike shuttle, where to camp, what to pack and the list goes on and on. Just another summer outing for Phil.  

  • Rippers Overland Beer Safari. What better way to enjoy the 2015 4th of July holiday than to roll through Vermont with some of his Ripper (The local bike club he is a member of) teammates for 3 days. This beer safari covered 99.8 miles of almost unrideable class 4 roads and scenic dirt roads and a 4.6 mile hike up to the summit of Mt. Mansfield. Along the way, it was stops at local breweries and pubs where in 3 days the team tasted 42 of New England’s finest Pilsners, IPAs, Stouts and Ales. As Phil so aptly put it…”Beer tastes best after you have sweat for many hours.”  

Phil’s list of adventures and challenges goes on and on. He is 55 and there really is no end in sight. He embraces the solitude of doing many of his long rides and hikes (those that exceed 12 hours) alone but only as much as those times when he is riding or hiking with teammates and friends. In all instances, he loves pushing himself to his limits and appreciates all others that do the same…whether it’s more or less of what he can do. And all this so he can stay healthy, stay competitive and keep up with his 3 children Alexa, Michael and Nicholas for at least another 20 years. Our money is on Phil.  

We asked Phil what the words Democracy of Sweat meant to him.  He said…“It means the first guy up the hill, setting a KOM (King of the Mountain) and the last guy grinding up minutes later. It’s sharing the same agony and ecstasy of doing something really hard. This shared experience binds them into a "Democracy of Sweat.” Phil, we couldn’t have said it better!

In case you are wondering, one of Phil’s next adventures is the Single Season Winter 48 4000-footers (SSW48)...conquering the 48 in the summer was just the warm-up.

If you would like to read more about Phil’s adventures visit:

http://loagom.blogspot.com

Following in the Footsteps

In the 1970's Bob Mello was an outstanding athlete. He received a scholarship to play basketball at Suffolk University and went on to become a successful coach and high school Athletic Director. Fast forward to present day and meet the son named after him who continues to build the Mello legacy.

Sports have been a part of Bob's life for as long as he can remember. Even at a young age there was no off season. Bob excelled at basketball, baseball, soccer and football. By the time he entered high school he narrowed down the list and focused primarily on baseball and basketball. His outstanding athleticism did not go unnoticed. His senior year he was chosen as captain of his baseball team at Arlington Catholic High School and awarded all-conference honors in the Catholic Central League.

It's no surprise that Bob credits his dad as the athlete who inspires him the most. He's learned from his dad to strive to be the best he could and live up to his potential. That drive afforded Bob the opportunity to play collegiate baseball at Fitchburg State University. After two years on the diamond, he switched gears and took up track. It was a natural progression for him as it allowed him to build upon the foundation of all the other sports he had pursued previously.

This past May Bob graduated from college. Like most athletes that grow up playing sports from a young age, he's now at a crossroads. Bob chooses to focus on the positive. For the first time he's free to try any sport he likes. He now has the time to explore mountain biking, golf, kayaking and cross country skiing. He's able to continue bonding with teammates and satisfy his competitive drive with bike racing and men's basketball leagues. His future path as an athlete may be uncertain, but there's one thing he knows for sure. Sports will always be a part of his life. After all, he was born for this.

Rhythm

He plays the drums on the weekends and when he plays he feels its rhythm. But he’s not a professional musician he’s an athlete. He’s a runner and a cyclist and the music is his inspiration.

The music of composer John Williams drives him. And the scores like Far & Away, Amistad, Memoirs of a Geisha and the Empire of the Sun motivate him. It’s the emotion he feels from the music that gives him the will to run marathons, to trail running in the Pacific Northwest and to his new challenge of cycling.

Justin was born in Chicago and moved to Orlando at the age of 13. Like many kids, he played baseball and soccer in high school, along with running track and cross-country.  He played some ice hockey and lacrosse too. 

But it was the running that appealed to him most. It’s sacred to him. He finds his freedom in it.  His independence. And it’s a time for him to let loose, forget about work and just run. It’s where he hears the music and where he finds his rhythm.

Since his first 5K in 2010, he’s run a ton of events around the country. There are some that just mean more to Justin, like the Chicago marathon. It’s his hometown, and his crowds. They line the streets of the city’s 29 neighborhoods and let every runner know that they have their back.

Then there are the ‘fun’ races like the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World. It’s a four-day runfest that that starts with a 5K on the first day, followed by a 10K on the next. Day three is a half-marathon and it’s capped off with a marathon on the final day. 48.6 miles! And having spent 15 years of his life in Orlando it gives Justin a chance to catch up with family and friends.

Like any serious athlete though, Justin’s has dealt with injuries. Lots of them, and the worst came in 2013. A day after running a half marathon, Justin competed in the Walt Disney World Marathon and with a tight Achilles and a strained plantar fascia, he broke his heel at mile 5. He struggled to an aid station at mile 9, had his foot wrapped and then walked, hobbled and walked some more to the finish, 4 hours and 43 minutes after he started! Just a different kind of rhythm.

Even with all the injuries running is so much a part of him. Trail running in the Northwest is still pure to him. He would like to run Big Sur, maybe a few 100/50-mile endurance races on the West Coast and possibly even some ultra marathons. 

And he’s discovered the love of cycling. It’s a new passion for him that he finds it difficult to choose between the running shoes or the bike.

Whether he’s on his bike or running a trail, Justin hears the music. He’s heard it in Chicago, in Orlando. He’s heard it for a time in New Jersey, in Boston and now in Seattle.

Life has a rhythm. Music does too. Sometimes it’s steady.  Other times it’s unpredictable. The beat we follow can be our own or someone else’s.

Justin Stone follows his own beat and for him, it’s about the present and the past. It’s about the people he’s met and the stories he’s shared. It’s his experiences. He doesn’t run because of what’s in front of him. Justin runs because of what’s behind him.

He Has It

It can’t be taught and it can’t be learned. Few of us have it. It comes in different forms and can be found in different places. It’s hard to explain it but it’s easy to spot.

It was out of the corner of our eye when we first saw him. And within a few minutes we couldn’t turn away. It was at the Boston Sports Club on Boylston Street on a cold, winter Saturday and he was leading a Zumba class of about 40 students.

Adam Bokunewicz has it. It’s stage presence and when you watch him teach you see it right away. His athleticism, his energy, his enthusiasm are contagious and for 60 minutes his students feel every bit of it.

Adam grew up just outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey and like every kid today he played youth sports. Some basketball and a little soccer, but neither fit. At the age of five he began taking piano lessons and a few years later started playing the trumpet. In the seventh grade he began singing. He joined the drama club and something clicked, something seemed right. His love for musical theater was born.

After graduating from high school he continued his art at the renowned Boston Conservatory.  For Adam it was the opportunity to study piano and the opportunity to act. In his sophomore year he started coaching and music directing and over the next couple of years he grew as an actor, music director and a coach. He was awarded the Conservatory’s 2015 ArtsImpulse Award for Emerging Artist of the Year and received a 2015 ArtsImpulse nomination for Best Music Direction.

The energy and performance of musical theater is not unlike that of Zumba. At the age of 15, Adam attended his first Zumba class. He fell in love with the dance, the music, the performing and like soccer and basketball it was tough at first, but there was something in Zumba. Something he felt he needed. Something he wanted. Adam decided he wanted to teach and found a mentor, Tanya Beardsley, one of the Zumba’s best. She taught him well, so well that he landed his first permanent teaching position while in high school. And for the next couple of years taught in gyms throughout Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia.

Adam moved to Boston and the Conservatory in 2012 and wanted to keep teaching while he was in school. Finding a teaching position was tough but thanks to the always, miserable Boston traffic, an unknown Adam Bokunewicz ‘subbed’ for a friend who taught at Boston Sports Club on Newbury Street. Shortly after that class, BSC’s Boston Regional Group Exercise Director called, offered him several full time positions in the city and Adam’s Zumba star was born. Today he teaches at Boston Sports Clubs, Healthworks Fitness Centers for Women and Bodyscapes. He’s been featured several times in Boston Magazine and his 2015 Zumba Class was named ‘Best of Boston’!

Musical theater is amazing. It’s exhausting and overwhelming too. It’s obsession, and perfection. It’s isolation. But sport and dance keeps Adam grounded. It helps him stay connected and gives him a chance to meet terrific people, create friendships and stay fit at a high level.

Adam’s an athlete, an actor and a coach. He’s a musician and a director and an extremely talented young man. But talent alone may never be enough. It’s always comes down to dedication, persistence and sometimes, that extra little ‘thing’. Adam has shown that to us, on the stage and in the gym. That extra little ‘thing’ is stage presence and Adam Bokunewicz has it. He’s always had it.

The Corner Store

It was her brother Sebastian, who would gently spot his younger sister a head start to that corner store. He was fast, damn fast. But those childhood sprints motivated her. She relished his competition, embraced the fight and learned to never quit. But most of all, she learned that running was fun.  Pure fun.

Aurelia Yoblonski learned that fun in Algonac, Michigan, which sits on the banks of the St. Clair River and St. John’s Marsh. Her story didn’t begin there though; it began in a very different place. It began in communist Poland and by the time Aurelia was three, her family had emigrated to the U.S. At first, it was hard. Her parents didn’t speak English and they knew no one. It was a new culture and a new way of life, but America was opportunity. She was freedom and liberty. She was hope.

As her American life began to settle in so did the foot races with Sebastian. They were young and competitive, and as a seventh grader Aurelia joined the track team. She was chasing Sebastian again, who was making a name for himself as a high school football, basketball and track star. When he left home to play D1 football at Eastern Michigan, Aurelia’s own star began to rise quickly and in her senior year at Algonac High School she set three Muskrat school records in the 400m, 4x8 relay and long jump. It turns out the little sister, that little girl, was fast too! Real fast!

After graduating from high school Aurelia received a scholarship from Macomb College and for four years continued to compete in the long jump, 200m and 400m sprints. While at Macomb, against many odds, her distance medley relay team, accomplished the near impossible by qualifying for the Nationals in Kansas! 

Her college athletic career was over but for Aurelia it meant something new. A new opportunity, a new ‘corner store’. It was distance running. She had some experience with cross-country in high school but endurance running would test her strength and determination. She thrived.

Aurelia has run five marathons, including Boston and New York. 20+ half marathons and too many 5K’s to count. It’s a phenomenal resume for any runner, no less a sprinter and she accomplished all of this in such a short period of time.   

Every athlete deals with pain and injury. For over three years Aurelia has struggled with low iron levels, so bad at times, that it prevented her from running a quarter mile. She’s had to deal with iron transfusions, blood issues and misdiagnosis.

And after her NYC Marathon she took a month off from running, began working out and playing in an adult co-ed kick ball league. Then came the knee problems. A bone bruise and stress fracture. Knee cap unlinking and lateral meniscus problems. 10 weeks of crutches and 6 months of not running. But she fought the iron issue and she fought the knee injury. She will always fight for her running.

It’s this fight that helped Aurelia earn a qualifying spot for Boston, the most prized invitation in marathon running. And it’s not easy. It took strength, an undying commitment and the love and support of her husband Brian, her stepdaughter Makayla and of course, Puggles, their pug.   

What’s next for Aurelia? She hopes to run Berlin, Chicago, London and Tokyo to complete the six world majors. She’d even like to run the pacing for some half and full marathons. 

Our childhood shapes us. It forms us. And what we learn lives with us for a lifetime. Some days we see a reflection that reminds us of that. It reminds us that we started somewhere else and it reminds us that our journey was never alone.

On September 1, 2013 she ran along side him in the Disneyland Half Marathon. They trained together and they ran together. They talked and they laughed. It was their first race together in a very long time. It was the corner store.