My Dad was a competitive athlete for as long as I can remember. I remember biking next to my dad as he chased his goal to qualify for Boston. He qualified in a time of 3:17 and then ran Boston in 1995. Growing up I followed in his athletic footsteps. The year after I finished my college swimming career, to help me find my groove after no longer being a part of a team, my dad talked me into a running a marathon. I agreed, and we trained and ran the Columbus Marathon together in 2008.  


While we trained for the marathon he frequently talked about us running Boston together. In the summer of 2016, I was in the best shape of my life and training for a fall marathon, with the hope of finally qualifying for Boston. A month before the marathon, we got devastating news – my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. He had surgery and underwent treatment, and with his push I went and ran the marathon but came up short. When I got back and came to family dinner that night, my dad came down wearing his Boston Marathon jacket. With his classic smirk of a smile he said, “I was going to give you my jacket, but you just aren’t fast enough!” At that moment I vowed to run my hometown spring marathon, The Flying Pig, and qualify, so he would be there to see me do it! 


Over the next few months, I trained, and he got treatment. At the end of February, we got even more devastating news, his treatment was no longer working. At that moment I wanted to quit. I remember getting notes from a few of the Volée members I had met at camp the previous year. They didn’t know the full story, but they knew I needed to keep training and my dad needed it too. I continued to train and visit him in hospice, secretly praying he would hang on until the race to see me qualify.  

On March 18, I ran a tune up half marathon.  I came home and showed my dad my splits. I told him I was in such good shape, his marathon PR was at risk. He smiled.  

On March 29, 2017 my dad made his transition to Heaven. On the morning of the Pig, I was numb, I didn’t want to run, but I knew I needed to show up. I knew I needed to just keep putting one foot in front of another. That had been my moto over the last few months.  And that is exactly what I did, and 3 hours and 32 minutes later I crossed the finish line a Boston Qualifier, with my biggest fan watching me every step of the way from Heaven. 


Qualifying at that moment meant so much more than being able to run Boston. It reminded me that I was going to be ok, we were going to be ok, and my dad was going to be by our sides every step of the way in whatever goal or challenge we face.  

That night my mom gave me my dad’s Boston jacket. 


The story doesn’t end there…. fast forward to September when I registered for Boston. I knew I was going to be on the bubble for getting in but was hopeful. I remember getting the email “Notice of Non-Acceptance - 2018 Boston Marathon”.  I was at work and I ugly cried.  The last year just flashed before my eyes, all the ups and downs, the sadness, and the joy. I was crushed. A few weeks later, I headed to Boulder for Kara’s Podium Retreat and wasn’t feeling really excited about running. My bird friend, Beth and I had signed up soon after my dad passed away. We thought it would be a fun weekend and we would get to meet our sister hero, Kara. The second day of the retreat Kara’s agent and friend, Shanna, gave a speech on legacy and had each of us write our obituary. I couldn’t. I just remember writing my dad’s obituary with my mom and siblings just a few months ago. It was too soon. I cried. After the exercise was over, Kara’s friend Anna asked me if I wanted to talk about it. Kara who was sitting in front of me turned around. I started telling my story, ugly crying, snot rolling down my face and, in that moment, I felt something inside of my shift.


I felt strong again. Throughout the weekend, I met a handful of other inspiring women and shared my story, and I remember meeting Pam who encouraged me to apply for a charity spot at Boston. At the airport on my way home from the retreat, I filled out an application for the charity 261 Fearless. I researched Kathrine Switzer’s organization and it felt like a perfect fit. 10 years ago, my dad chaired a committee to retroactively award varsity letters to women at the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University who competed in sports prior to Title IX. He was huge supporter of promoting women’s sports, and it was right in line with the mission of 261. Before I hopped on the plane my application to 261 Fearless 2018 Boston Team was submitted. Two days later, I did a phone interview. Three days later, I got an email “Congratulations! You have been selected to run the Boston Marathon” I was at work again, and this time I screamed!

On Monday, April 16, I get to toe the line in Hopkinton and run the 122nd Boston Marathon. The goal was to run Boston with my dad, and while you may not be able to see him with me, I will be able to feel him with me every step of those 26.2 miles. I cannot wait to take in every moment of Marathon Monday, one mile at a time just like I have every day since my dad was diagnosed. Thank you to my family and friends for the support and encouragement over the last year. And special thanks to all my Volée #birdfriends – you remind me daily, I am stronger that I realize, and sometimes strong is our only option. 

See you soon, Boston! 


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Racing - Races
April 11, 2018 — Allyson Ely

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