Marathons: Boston and Beyond

Junior Ellie Sloane, who is running the Providence Marathon this year, says that most people ask, “Why would you do that to yourself?” when runners talk about their love of the sport. But Sloane said that after you’ve run a couple miles, it’s fairly easy to keep going.

“It gives you something to do without having to think about it . . . It’s really an escape for me,” she said.

Running a marathon is a lifelong goal for seasoned runners and non-runners alike. According to various studies, marathoners reach peak performance in their late twenties or early thirties. But many begin running before that, and some students who live in Brookline, along with Brookline school teachers, are running marathons this spring.

Students and teachers at the high school who run marathons mainly run two races: the Boston Marathon, which falls on April 16 this year, and the Providence Marathon, on May 6. Those running Providence, including Sloane, are part of the DREAMFAR High School Marathon club, which prepares students to run a marathon alongside teacher runners and mentors.

Senior Janice Wei joined the club her sophomore year after moving to the United States from China her freshman year.

“I had no friends, was afraid of the new environment, and tried to isolate myself — not that much, but I was scared. I got scared,” Wei said. “Dreamfar is a really good way to make connections with people and open myself, open my mind.”

Boston really, truly is special. The whole community rallies around you.”

— Josephine Bouquet, teacher at Driscoll School

Driscoll fourth grade teacher Josephine Bouquet is running Boston this year after running as a bandit runner (without an official number) in 2013. She wasn’t able to finish the race because of the bombing. She said that especially as a teacher, she is constantly talking to people, whether it is fielding questions from kids or speaking with co-workers. Running serves as a break from that.

“It’s just so meditative. It’s an hour that I get to myself, just running alone, listening to music, thinking about my day, whatever it is, and no one’s allowed to bother me,” Bouquet said. “It’s really a time where I can take time for myself to do something that I really enjoy.

Senior Ronit Kempler, who is also running Boston, started running in seventh grade. She joined the cross country and track teams in high school, and this is her first marathon. Kempler feels similarly to Bouquet about running and said that her runs are usually connected in some way to her day.

“Running is great because it gives you an opportunity to clear your head and let yourself get your energy out,” Kempler said.

Wei, on the other hand, began running simply as a social activity. She first heard about DREAMFAR her sophomore year when the students at her table in math class were part of the club.

For others, running is a way to fundraise for charities. There are qualifying times for the Boston Marathon that depend on age and gender, and people who have never done a marathon before or who haven’t met the qualifying time must join a team and raise money. Casey McNamara, a Brookline resident and senior at Ursuline Academy who formerly attended Brookline schools, said that she has always wanted to run a marathon. She’s running the Boston Marathon this year to raise money for diabetes through the Joslin Diabetes Center. Because she has Type 1 diabetes, McNamara has a personal connection to the cause.

“Running is just one day of the marathon, and I’m training all the way to get up to that, but diabetes is something I have to live with the rest of my life until they find a cure,” McNamara said. “So in a way, raising these funds is hopefully racing to the finish line of finding a cure, which, although I’m so excited to run the marathon, that’s probably the most important goal I have in my life — to find a cure for diabetes.”

Bouquet, who is running as part of Team Brookline along with Kempler, is raising money for the Brookline Education Foundation. She said the BEF is important to her.

“They provide incredible opportunities. I’m so fortunate to be able to teach in Brookline, and then to have this additional opportunity to be able to give back to this community that has really welcomed me with open arms has been really really exciting,” she said.

The runners agreed that marathons are incredibly difficult and that running with others makes the marathon and training for it more bearable, manageable and fun.

Wei said that during the Providence marathon last year and the year before, she picked people to run with and tried to stick with them.

“Sometimes I just grabbed random people, like ‘Hi, what’s your name?’ and I started running with them,” Wei said, “because it’s really hard to do it on your own.”

According to Sloane, it’s helpful to surround yourself with others working towards the same goal.

“Generally when one person is feeling bad, everybody else is feeling okay, so they can keep pushing everybody forward.”

Driscoll School fourth grade teacher Josephine Bouquet (left) trains for the Boston Marathon. Bouquet runs for Team Brookline and is raising money for the Brookline Education Foundation.

Bouquet said that her Team Brookline teammates are supportive, and she is impressed by their ability to run a marathon even when they all have other responsibilities.

“One of my teammates, she’s got four kids, and she still makes the time to come out every Saturday and do these long runs, and she’s just crushing it,” Bouquet said. “So I’m always kind of like, if she can do it, I can muster the energy to do it as well. And it’s nice to be going through the process all together.”

Wei kept up her motivation during the marathon by focusing on the beautiful Providence scenery, particularly the bridges. She also tried to remember that her mother was somewhere in the crowd, cheering her on.

“I just wanted to find her, like where is she? She might be one mile ahead, waiting for me,” Wei said.

Sloane believes that running is just as mental as physical. Kempler agreed that running a marathon requires a lot of mental toughness and focus, which she’s been working on building up, especially during her longer runs.

“Rather than thinking, ‘Oh, this is so hard,’ I’ll find something that will distract my mind to focus on instead of what I’m actually doing when I run,” Kempler said.

Bouquet said that she tries to keep the end goal in sight, whether that is thinking of the race on a training day or thinking about the finish line during the actual marathon.

“There is kind of a point in the middle where there’s a lull, and you’re asking yourself, ‘Why did I do this? Why did I commit to this? How did I think this was going to be fun?’ By the end, it’s totally worth it. The experience is unparalleled by anything else I’ve ever done,” Bouquet said. 

McNamara said it’s important to remember to have fun while running.

“At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be an extra job, especially at our age, it should be something that you’re really enjoying,” she said.

Bouquet said that getting to run through so many towns and having people cheering every step of the way during the marathon is really exciting.

“Boston really, truly is special. The whole community rallies around you. When people find out that you’re running the Boston Marathon, people are so excited to talk to you about it,” Bouquet said. “They want to talk to you about how they’ve done it, or how they’re gonna be out there cheering for you.”