By Kelly Ferguson
Our four fabulous runners, Kat, Justin, Alexa and Neal, are braving rainy conditions this Marathon Monday to run 26.2 miles for Silver Lining Mentoring! Staff member Kelly Ferguson sat down with each person to learn about their backgrounds, and what lead them to make the incredible commitment to SLM this year.
Kat has had running the Boston Marathon on her bucket list for the past three years. She places importance on mentoring, and has mentored with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Kat also has three sons, ages 12, 15 and 19. Her go-to place to work out is her local YMCA.
Kat has run shorter races before, but in training for a Marathon, found it “hard to pass double digits.” She admits that she had “days when I cried,” and that adding training and fundraising to the existing demands of her life was “tough.” She attributes her success to her belief that she could do it, the fact that she “put in the work,” and the knowledge that, “my kids would be proud.”
She trained with a friend she met in a running club, who is also running the Marathon this year and whom Kat describes as one of her “biggest motivators.” Like many Boston Marathon participants running with the John Hancock non-profit program, Kat also trained with Coach Rick, of the Marathon coalition. The conditions were so cold that one winter day that while out running with Coach, Kat adjusted her shirt to find crushed ice falling out of it- from frozen sweat!
Kat wants to thank everyone for their support of her in running the Boston Marathon with Silver Lining Mentoring this year, and says that seeing all of the people who’ve been behind her, reassuring her and cheering her on, was an “eye-opener.”
Justin was determined to focus on his health this year, and says that running the Boston Marathon with Silver Lining Mentoring was a “natural fit.” He has been a dedicated member of our community for about 8 years, which is when he joined the Committee of our annual Match Gala.
Justin has since become a mentor with SLM. He was matched up with a mentee in our new Build-a-Match program, which serves our youngest youth. Justin says his mentee is “smart and competitive,” and has managed to beat him in both bowling and UNO.
He and his match graduated from the program and have transitioned into Community-Based mentoring. Justin and his mentee meet up monthly and spend quality time together, with the support of an SLM Program Coordinator trained in Social Work. He says he is “extremely grateful” to have his mentee in his life.
Justin has been training for the Marathon by running along the Esplanade, while listening to podcasts. He is passionate about outdoor activities, and even hiked Mount Kilimanjaro earlier in the year. After the Marathon, Justin has his eye on a yoga retreat, a Spartan Race, rock climbing/bouldering, and backpacking in Zion!
The advice Justin would give to anyone considering running a Marathon or a tackling a major undertaking? Understand that “it’s as much mental as physical,” and that when you really go for it, you “can amaze yourself at what’s possible.”
Alexa has not been a lifelong athlete. She didn’t play sports in high school or college, and was a self-described “theatre kid.” Alexa got into running towards the end of her time as an undergrad at Suffolk University. She worked her way up from running 5k races, to 10k’s, and then to joining Silver Lining Mentoring as a runner in the Boston Marathon. Alexa says that given her lack of interest in athletes when she was younger, “people at home” were “surprised” to find out!
She’s very interested in film, and currently works in public media at WGBH. Alexa loves traveling, and often travels to Portugal. She has family there, and describes Portugal as an “important part of her identity.”’ Alexa also has two twin brothers whom she spends time with often. One of her biggest mentors in life is her mom. As Alexa put it, “my mom is the strongest person I know,” as she “isn’t afraid to face obstacles head-on.”
One thing that has surprised Alexa in her journey with running is how much she has enjoyed becoming a part of the running community. She described her experience running for Silver Lining Mentoring in the Boston Marathon this year as a “truly one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Neal was first inspired to join Silver Lining Mentoring to run the Boston Marathon because of his own positive experience with a mentor.
As Neal describes, “my mentor said that human potential is unlimited…but at the time, I didn’t know if I believed him.” Now, Neal agrees.
When he first started running, Neal was 348 lb. As he recalls, even running a short distance left him very short of breath. Training was difficult; Neal describes it as a “lonely…5 months of time,” especially in winter in Boston when it’s “dark and cold.”
But after years of hard work and with two Marathons to show for it, Neal is a living testament to the idea of endless potential. He says that having purpose underlying your run is important, and believes that “charity runners” and those with “people to support you on the track, finish well.”
Neal loves to travel, and has had the fortune to run in “17 countries and 11 states, all of which he says have “different environments.” The weather in those places has ranged from 80 degrees with 80% humidity, to 20 degrees in the Swiss Alps. He’s also trained in dissimilar altitudes, including by running while in South America for a month.
Neal says he’s had “a variety of experiences,” and that people are surprised to learn that included among those experience is his time as a “professional clown and talented balloon artist!” His advice to aspiring Marathoners? “You’ll never feel ready…it takes intentionality. Set out to do something, take the plunge and find a mentor.”
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