A Journey of a different kind...

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Sunday, September 13th 2015, a cool, damp morning…perfect for a 5k! This year, I participated in the Jeff Coombs Memorial Road Race. This organization was founded by the wife and family of Jeff, who was on Flight 11 on 9/11/2001. They founded it two short months after that terrible day. They had received such an outpouring of support from their community, they wanted to pay it forward…and do they ever!

I found out about the road race from the yoga studio I practice at, Cardinal Yoga. They were putting a team together and I enthusiastically joined. Those of you that know me, know I’m not very athletic and have an interesting relationship with 5ks. Here’s the abridged version:

This year I participated in the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge 5k in Boston for the third time. Two years ago I walked the course. My friends and I were literally the last people to finish. Technically we didn't actually finish the race as they were dismantling the finish line as we rounded Charles St
Last year I participated again, bound and determined not to be last! I walked at a decent pace, and did a tiny (and I do mean tiny) bit of running. My time was just over 1 hour (1:01). I was ecstatic!!

This year, I set myself a personal goal. Do it under 1 hour. I would have been happy with anything under an hour but my target was around 45 minutes.

I've been training, using a "couch to 5k" app, not always doing it 3 times a week as recommended but giving it my all. At the time of the race, I was at week 5 of the 8 week program. I've also been motivated by a walk-club at work which got me out of my seat and walking at lunch time.

Race night it was 80 degrees at start time and humid...less than ideal conditions, at least for me.
Mile 1, my pace was 12.53! What, how did that happen. I got a little slower from there, the heat and humidity got to me, I listened to my body and ran a little when I could and walked fast the rest of the way, dumping water over my head at every opportunity.

My official time, 48:02. Me, former couch potato, love-my-food me...48:02.

So, onto the Jeff Coombs race. When I signed up, I decided to reach out for sponsors. The company I work, and its employees’ generosity are legendary. In a short amount of time, I had collect over $600 in sponsors and a company donation of $250 was made in my name. That, coupled with my entry fee, made our contribution to this fund almost $1,000!

I’ve been slacking on my Couch to 5k training (a trip home to Ireland last month didn’t help) so my personal expectations for my race time were not high. It was really about the event and what we were fundraising for, not my personal race time. I arrived and met up with the motley crew that was the team from Cardinal Yoga. We had some runners, some walkers and some in-betweens, like me. Running with everyone in the race were 6 “ruckers”, National Guards running with their packs on (which I head weighed in at 65lbs). We were also joined by 25 police cadets from Randolph, no pressure…just ultra-fit, ultra-competitive people in the mix. Oh, two of the “ruckers” and one of the cadets were women…keeping up with the boys!

Before the race started, Christy Coombs, Jeff’s wife, addressed the crowd (and it was a crowd, probably 1,000 plus participants, plus friends and family). This amazing woman lost her husband and best friend and, instead of wallowing in her grief (which she would have been fully entitled to do), she started this foundation to help anyone in need. They provide scholarships to local school kids, relief for family hardships, and provide emotional support to families by funding special outings and fun events. What a remarkable family.

The National Anthem was sung by a 5 year old boy who lost his military father in Afghanistan. His father died 6 years ago so they never actually met. The mood was sad, determined, exuberant and solemn, all at once. Before we start, we are all given the opportunity to run our race in memory of a fallen soldier, someone who died on 9/11, or anyone else we chose. I picked up a sticker for a fallen solider who I didn’t know but was proud to run in memory of.

Race starts just after 9AM, there we are, running the streets of Abington, MA. I start off strong, running 9 out of my first 13 minutes…not bad for me! I pace myself after that, running when I can (mostly on the downhills) and walking when I need to. I have music in my ears and a tracker on my arm but can’t really tell how I’m doing? I was passed relatively early on by the cadets, who were bringing up the rear of the runners. I was walking most of the last part, face was beet red, heart rate was well up there (high 160’s). I had no idea how far from the finish I was. I looked down and saw one of the stickers that were used to write in the names of those we were walking for…This one was for Martin Richard. My heart stopped for a second…then suddenly I had the steam I needed to finish the race, running. I turned the next bend and could see the gates to the school where we had started…the finish was in sight! With a renewed burst of energy, I ran to the end and across the finish line. The time clock read 40:19. How was this possible?? Now I have a new bar for myself.

This race is a big event in my community, people coming together for a great cause, having fun at the same time. After the race, there was free food, a huge raffle for goods and services donated by local businesses and bouncy castles for the kids. Carlos Arredondo, the Boston Marathon hero was there. I didn’t get to meet him but would have loved to just shake his hand and say thank you.

I really felt lucky to have been able to participate. I’ll be there every year going forward…

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Ciara Gogan