By: Jessica Wayashe, ‘11
Maybe it was the guy in the cheeseburger costume trudging past me on Heartbreak Hill.
It could have been the women running side by side in superhero capes, or the people guiding blind friends and family members toward the finish.
Whatever it was, the energy I felt in the midst of the 2013 Boston Marathon was unlike any rush I’ve experienced. That’s despite my time sprinting for High Point University track, working with a Major League Soccer team, and attending numerous New England Patriots games — all adventures that are pretty hard to beat.
I trained in the cold for months to slash this dream off my bucket list. As a Charity Runner, I raised $4,000 before the race, a challenge I was confident in thanks to my experience raising funds for Kappa Delta at HPU and our philanthropies. It felt like my day to shine.
But my excitement began to fade around mile 23, not long after I passed my dad, brother and grandmother cheering me on from the sidelines. As I headed closer to Boston, I saw staff ushering runners to the sidewalk. I was running 10:16 miles on average… There’s no way I was so slow that they began cleaning up before I even finished, right?
At the medical tent at 24.5 miles, they told me I couldn’t go any farther. When I finally found out what happened, my first thought was this: My family is waiting for me at the finish line.
I waited at a synagogue that took runners in to feed us and keep us warm for three hours until a bus returned us to the Boston Commons. As we got off the bus, I spotted my father and jumped in his arms and cried. I was thankful that my family was OK, yet angry that someone could cause so much hurt at the place where athletes were supposed to experience so much joy.
Shortly after the bombings, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) identified more than 5,000 athletes who were stopped less than 3 miles away from the finish line. I was one of them.
In May 2013, the BAA extended an early entrance of registration to those runners for the 2014 Boston Marathon. I registered as soon as I got the invitation. I wasn’t going to let this act of terror deter me from having my moment…from coming back stronger.
I became a Charity Runner for the second year in a row and raised $6,000 for the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. At the time, I was an account executive at the New England Revolution Major League Soccer team, owned by Kraft, which also owns the the New England Patriots. I had launched the career High Point University prepared me for as a sport management graduate. I was dreaming big.
When my foot hit the pavement on April 21, 2014, there was still the euphoria, the people in tights, and the long roads to conquer ahead of me. But this time, there was more. There were banners created by people from all over the country showing support for runners that day, including one made by my own sorority at HPU. There was a sense of pride that united all of us and picked us up when we thought we couldn’t go farther. And this time, when I completed the Boston Marathon, there was a medal in my hand.