June 27 2017
Joan Lentini and Tara Yasenchak share the story behind The 13.1 Challenge and explain how runners of all endurance levels can participate.
In 2008, I stood on the sidelines at the Boston Marathon with my mother as we watched the runners pass. The city had an incredible energy that day, and I was inspired by the athletes who had worked so hard to get there. The farthest I’d ever run was six miles, but I told my mom, “I want to do this race one day.” She said that she knew I could do it if I tried.
The very next year, my mom passed away unexpectedly. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe she was gone.
In the weeks following her death, I often thought back to the moment we shared in Boston. I needed to run this race. I joined a running group and set my sights on a local marathon that autumn. I wanted to finish strong and qualify for Boston in 2011.
As I formed bonds with my new running partners, I started running faster and farther. I could feel the hole in my heart slowly begin to heal. That October, I finished the BayState Marathon. Even though I pushed myself as hard as I could, my time wasn’t fast enough to qualify. Still, I was determined to achieve my goal. Just six weeks later, I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon. I ran faster this time, but I was still too slow. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever make it to the starting line in Boston.
Luckily, my sister-in-law suprised me by securing a spot for me at Boston as a volunteer runner. I was thrilled!
I struggled during the race and at times wondered if I would finish—but when I turned the final corner on Hereford Street, I knew I was about to complete my goal as I had promised. I was overwhelmed with emotion. My dad, brother and husband cheered me on in the stands, and it felt like my mom was cheering for me too.