Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Spring in Their Steps for Sue

This weekend saw the third annual charity walk for Susan (Scanlon) Bradley, who passed away far too early from a brain tumor.
Her family has been staging a charity walk in her honor every year to help raise money for a scholarship and keep her legacy alive.
On Sunday, more than 200 people turned out to walk in what was arguably the nicest weather the event has seen in its three years.
Mucho mileage was logged around the track at Notre Dame Academy in Tyngsboro by the hearty and healthy walkers.
Sue's brother, Barry, opened things up with a thank you to all who contributed to the scholarship fund
And then Sue's husband Tim led his children out for the first lap of many around the track!
Sue passed away from a Glioblastoma, a type of malignant brain tumor.  The third annual walk was organized as a way to remember and honor all the wonderful things she did for so many, while also allowing her family to give back to the community.
Susan was a big advocate of education her entire life.  She worked in the school systems for 25 years and was also very involved in the schools her children attended.  The funds raised at the walk will be applied toward the Susan Bradley Scholarship set up at the Academy of Notre Dame so that even in her absence, she will continue to give back to others.
Over the span of the three years of the walk, her family has raised more than $25,000!!!
Here, Barry and Scott recreate their performance on the power lines stretch of the Merrimack River trail race
The ladies in Barry's life
One incredible aspect of the walk is that every year, it draws in people who also attended St. Joseph's Regional High School (Sue's alma mater) back in the day.
Always great to reunite with friends from nearly FOUR DECADES AGO!
This year saw a record number of dogs taking part in the walk.  Though truth be told, from what I saw, most of them ended up being carried, or just calling it a day and laying down on the field.
Selfies abounded this day.  This one, along with several other pics on this post, comes courtesy of Marcia Cassidy
The Brothers Scanlon, counting down the minutes to the prize raffle, always an exciting event!  Especially for Sean and Jill's children
My Number One Walking Buddy.  Any day, every day.
Best buds coming up on 45 YEARS!
Looks like the walk itself may be winding down.  John, of course, always knows where the camera is.  Andrew must be slipping.
Yeah, I think it's time to declare this puppy over.
A group pic of E Streeter Nation (absent a couple of participants who were busy taking care of clean-up details at the event)
As regular readers of the blog know, we're always honored to support charity causes, whether it be through road races, or special events.
But when it directly impacts one of our own as in this case, it always serves to remind us just how lucky we are to all still have one another and be able to get together like this to honor a loved one's life, and to celebrate the fact that we're all still together.
Friends and family.  Don't take either of them for granted.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Family Finish for the Ages

The last time Heather and Jackie were together at the Finish Line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street was on April 15, 2013, an historic date in our nation's history and a day that changed hundreds of lives irrevocably.   On that day, Andrew and I had already passed over the finish line and were standing at the water table when the first bomb went off and changed the world.
Jackie and Heather, however, were in the bleachers across the street from both blasts.  They witnessed much more than I wish they ever had to see.  And their anxiety was only heightened by false  reports that a third bomb lay in the bleachers beneath their feet.
It was a day that changed us all, and one that has become etched in our family story.
That day, Jackie was standing in a place she doesn't normally stand.  Every year past, she stood by the global flags right at the finish line, the site of the first explosion.  I always knew to always look for her in the same spot.
But in 2013, she thankfully changed her spectator location, because we had made plans to go visit her sister Annie, who was convalescing at Brigham and Women's Hospital, on the south side of Boylston Street.  So rather than get caught up in street closure traffic woes, Jackie moved across the street.
Since that day, we've always said Annie helped save Jackie and Heather from being at ground zero when the first bomb exploded.
And last year, when Annie was faced with her final days, on the last day in the hospital that she could still speak with us, Heather told her she was going to run the Boston Marathon and she was going to do it for Annie.
Annie told her "You go, girlfriend."
And she did.  Did she ever.
And she had Annie with her every step of the way.
Coming down Boylston Street, Heather prepares to officially cross the Boston Marathon finish line for the first time in her life.
For a period of time, Heather had not wanted to return to that location, recalling the experiences she went through with Jackie that April Monday.
This day, she had it dead in her sights.
Many folks, upon finishing the Boston Marathon, experience a full-on catharsis of their emotions at have achieved the accomplishment.  This manifest sometimes in physical collapse, effusive jubilation, and in many case, uncontrollable sobbing.  It's the release of all those months of training and the hardships endured throughout that rises to the forefront.
The first one to congratulate Heather as she finished this year's marathon was the big brother who had helped her train through the long cold winter, and the guy who ran the whole course with her this day just to support her efforts.
He may drive her crazy some days, and his non-running  antics on the 26 prior miles may have gotten under her skin in the heat of battle, but these two love each other, and I don't know if I own a picture that shows that better.
A hug for dad (the photographer who didn't capture his own hug) and then after waving off the numerous wheelchairs offered to the runners, it was over to the fence, where Jackie awaited with her cousin Cheryl.
Cheryl, I might add, besides being out there at Mile 16 and again at the finish, was also one of Heather's loudest cheerleaders at the Eastern States 20 miler a few weeks prior, from Kittery, Maine, down the coast of New Hampshire and over the border into Massachusetts.
Thanks for being there, Cheryl!
And then, the moment these two best friends have been waiting to capture for I-don't-know-how-long
Yes, she did.
Heather ran her first Boston Marathon.
And we all couldn't be prouder.
If you're still reading this blog after all these multiple posts chronicling the experience, thanks for following along.
I've got to be honest, I've been a Dad for 23+ years.  Over those years, we've had amazing times, some heartbreaking times, some scary moments, and decades of memories that have changed my world.
This particular day, the experience of being there step-for-step with my daughter as she achieved the goal she had set her sights on the prior year was unforgettable and can never be recaptured.
Thanks to all the supporters who helped her through those miles.
Special thanks, of course, to her mother and brother, who were there for her through all the months that led to this moment on Boylston Street.
Heather, you're a rock star.
I leave you with this image, captured by one of Andrew's friends off the live television coverage.
A father, a daughter, and a son, crossing the Boston Marathon Finish Line, together.
For every mile that day and in all the years to come.

Friday, April 28, 2017

With a Little Help from Her Friends

Heading in to the home stretch of the Boston Marathon, along the toughest part of the course - the hills in Newton, and ultimately, Heartbreak Hill itself.
The stretch getting here was getting a tad ugly, and the road ahead was going to hold its challenges.
Good thing Heather has an army of friends who are willing to stand out there cheering to help her get across that finish line.
It started at the Newton Fire Station, where Angelo, Heather's bud from Stonehill waited patiently, sign in hand.
From there, we continued past Newton Town Hall, and paused to say thanks to the officers from NEMLEC who staff that stretch of roadway, including Dracut PD's Steve Chaput, and Pat Towle from the Bedford PD.
Thanks guys, you make a huge difference out there!
And yeah, Andrew's still striking a pose
Leave it to Andrew to find the Hamilton reference along the course, giving him yet another opportunity to take his shot.
We put the camera away for the hills, and focused on moving forward, and eventually, crested the top of Heartbreak Hill and saw Boston College in the distance.
The afternoon was pierced once again by a shrieking cheer from the sidelines as the rest of Heather's Stonehill College posse came into view.
Janine, a runner herself, ran up the hill to greet Heather first
The rest of the crew then made their way forward for hugs, support, love, and genuine friendship 
Mad props to Janine, Maya, Elizabeth, Anna, and Hannah!
Seriously ladies - you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what a turning point you provided for Heather in this race.  Having just come off her lowest point on the whole course, you infused her with a shot of adrenaline that lit up her final 5 miles!
In all my years of running this historic race, I have never seen a turnaround in a runner's final push like the one that you provided Heather with your friendship.
Rock stars, all
Heading down Commonwealth Avenue, the iconic Citgo sign in Kenmore Square on our horizon, we were greeted by Nicole Hatem - she of 2015 Boston Marathon  lore - and her partner Colleen
Steps before the overpass over the Mass Pike, we met the legend himself, Rick Sobey, fresh off crushing the 26.2 miles of the Paris Marathon just a week earlier.  Rick is a Boston veteran whose times put me to shame.  The real deal.  A great guy, a great runner, and a great supporter for sticking around out there to give us that final kick to get us through Kenmore Square.
Speaking of Kenmore, Heather's Lowell High School bud Olivia Trull was waiting there and wanted to give Heather her own hug of inspiration to conquer the FINAL MILE
Still posing strong.  Boston Strong, that is.
And one final shoutout to Callie O'Neil, another of Heather's Lowell High best buds, and an incredible friend to be waiting there on that final stretch along Boylston Street.
Did I say Boylston Street?  You know what that means, then, right?
Yep - next up is the FINAL blog post for this year's Boston Marathon. The odyssey ends.  And what a finish it's going to be.  Bring tissues.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Screams, Smooches, Friendly Faces - This is Wellesley

Welcome to Wellesley, and ergo, Wellesley College, the middle stretch of the Boston Marathon that many claim is the most motivational and noisiest of the course.  Also known as the Scream Tunnel.
But before we get there, a little Patriots Shade alongside the road, reminding us of the GREATEST COMEBACK OF ALL TIME AND THE GOAT TOM BRADY!!!!

Suddenly, from the side of the road, darted a friendly and familiar face - Christine Cole!  Ironically, she hadn't immediately recognized us as we passed, but liked the logo on the shirt front, and then recognized Annie's smiling face on our backs!  She ran to catch up to us!  So technically, Christine ran in the Boston Marathon, right?
Can I just say how uplifting and welcoming it is to see someone you love along the course?  It adds an extra bounce to your steps and sometimes gives you that needed adrenaline shot to motor on.
(Check our next blog entry for further evidence of that)
Speaking of friends, we found these two guys hanging out at Wellesley College.  (It was legal.)
Welcome to Barry Scanlon making his return to the course he so loves and Steve Vachon, making his debut along the Boston course!
Yes, the Scream Tunnel, or in Andrew's case, the Smooching Stretch.
He does it because they've got signs encouraging it.  And this year, they were extra clever.
The guy should run for office in Wellesley, he's got the high-fiving down to an art form.
Heather, for her part, experiencing Wellesley for the first time, doesn't know what to make of her big brother.  Not the first time that's happened. 
Finally, she extended out to thank the supporters 
Still working it.
Andrew finds the top banana at Wellesley
Yeah, you're reading it right
Most readers of this blog will have no idea why Andrew is lying in the road at the halfway mat.  Anyone who was there for the original event will always fondly remember "The Fall."  Andrew took the opportunity to recreate it.
Past the college, Andrew has moved on to inciting the crowd at Wellesley center
Barry and I have logged many a mile along this stretch of road
Mile 16, and it's our favorite fan along the course!  Jackie was at her usual post, cheering louder than anyone else on the bridge over 128, as she's always done.
I can't over-emphasize enough what a powerhouse this woman is when it comes to supporting her family, even when they take on as crazy as an endeavor as running the Boston Marathon together.
A smooch, and some words of inspiration to help propel Heather through her final 10 miles, and we're off!
One of Andrew's many favorite places to pose for pics.  Sadly, John Piekos was nowhere to be found this year to capture an image.
Heading through Mile 17, Andrew is basking in the spray of one of the many open fire hydrants to help keep runners cool on this brutally warm day!  Either that or he's still in LaLaLand.
Coming up: the legendary hills - this year, LOADED with friends to give Heather just what she needs to finish this bad boy off!