by Janice Marie Ferguson
As I type this, our Joey is heading to the starting gate for the 118th Boston Marathon. She’s got the support of Mitch Kaiser, her twin sister, and her brother-in-law. She’s also got the support of her fellow Bandits, the running community back here on the Coast, and the entire world.
I remember Joey telling me several years ago of her goal to “qualify for Boston.” No further clarification was needed. Everyone, runner and non-runner alike, knows what “Boston” is. It’s a pretty big deal. Joey calls it the “Superbowl of Marathons.” They don’t let just anyone in. You have to qualify, and every year, that minimal qualifying time gets lower and lower.
In 2012, after a six-month training plan with the help of her coach and training partner, Katy Roberts, Joey achieved her goal at the Marine Corps Marathon. Her qualification run was not only good enough to get her a qualifying time for Boston, but it was a 20-minute personal best. Joey’s hard work had paid off. Her dream came true.
After dealing with several set backs while training for Boston 2013, Joey wasn’t sure how her race would go. I ran with her the Thursday before. I remember the doubts she expressed to me then. Despite her doubts, she wanted to get another marathon PR in Boston. But, she just wasn’t sure of herself. She resolved herself to the mantra “no regrets.” I will never forget following her text updates. I was literally in tears. I felt like I was running with her as every update came in. Her 10K time was spot on for the PR she had hoped for. Then her half. When she came across the 30K mark, I knew it was going to happen. I was so proud of my friend.
Then, tragedy struck. Someone bombed the finish line with a homemade device. Dozens were maimed and injured. Three of those people died. This happened just minutes after Joey had left the finish line area. I was angry that someone would try to steal the joy of something so beautiful from so many people. The whole world was angry. Joey told me that had she settled for playing it safe and not going for the PR, her finish time would have been around the time of the bombing, which would have put her family in harm’s way. It was hard for her to celebrate her victory, when so many had suffered such tragic loss.
“I cried when I was at the start line last year. I felt so lucky that I was there. I cried after for different reasons,” she told me.
But, the country came together. The running community came together. We refused to let terrorist tactics control us. This was such an emotional time for Joey, and so many other runners and their families across the world.
Joey after finishing the 2013 Boston Marathon. Just minutes before the bombing.
I asked Joey why she wanted to return this year and if she was afraid. “Last year was tragic. Unexpected. I want to return this year to show that such a tragedy didn’t weaken us but made our running community stronger and more unified. I want to be able to celebrate with the victims, as well as my friends and family. That was cut short last year. There was no celebration,” she said.
Joey’s training plan leading up to this year’s race hasn’t been focused so much on Boston. Her “A” race is a 100-miler this fall. That means speed training has been on the back burner. But, just like any runner, she is still hoping to set a new PR. Her approach to the race this year is more about having fun. “This year, I’m going in with the mentality of wanting to really enjoy the experience, and I have a new appreciation for how lucky I am,” Joey said.
“I’m definitely not as prepared physically or mentally as I would like to be, but that’s not going to stop me from attempting another PR. If I crash and burn at mile 16, well, at least I’ll have a solid training run. There will always be another race,” Joey told me. Spoken like a true athlete. We are so lucky to call her “our Joey.” We are very proud of her, no matter the outcome.
This race is important to Joey for many reasons. That means it’s important to us. If you want to follow her, text her bib number, “17039” to 345678. You will receive four updates on her progress.
“Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts.” -Steve Prefontaine
Godspeed, Joey. You’ve probably already started the race by now. I will wait patiently for the first 5K text update.