111th Boston Marathon

April 16, 2007

After 11 Bostons over 25 years, my battle with cancer was still my toughest marathon

Nancy Peck-Cook

Age 42, 3:05:59

Bib #6552

To qualify for Boston is a badge of honor. It is the “Grand Daddy” of them all. When you say you have run the Boston Marathon, you can feel the deserved respect. It isn’t an easy marathon to train for, even though the marathon distance is still just 26.2 miles. 🙂 Living in the Northeast, in the snow and the cold just gives it an extra challenge. I am an avid skier and every weekend is coaching, teaching and skiing with my family. Running takes a back seat and I “give myself a rest” and slide down the mountain on skis instead. 🙂 Ski training isn’t a cross training choice for running and really doesn’t compliment the regime, but skiing is my other sport and a family activity that we love so much!

Besides the challenge I love the Boston Marathon for its rich history. Being a history buff from New England, Boston resonates with me. Recently I’ve enjoyed following the Boston Marathon on the BAA’s Facebook page. The page shared photos of Johnny Kelley (who I met in 1993 in Athlete’s Village – when he was in his 90’s) and Clarence De Mar (we have a marathon named after him here in New Hampshire) and Joan Benoit Samuelson (I met her at the Tufts 10K for Women and taught her niece skiing at Mt Sunapee) and Bill Rodgers (I met him in Boston and at the Woodstock 1/2 marathon) and finally I got to meet & talk to Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run Boston this year at the Expo. How cool is that?! 🙂 These names are famous in the running world and their stories are tightly woven in the history of the Boston Marathon. So cool to meet them in person!

I would like to share a brief personal history of running the Boston Marathon:

1990 - The Rookie

April 16, 1990
Age – 25

Each year since I started running marathons in 1989, my running goal has been to qualify for Boston. Some years, even though I qualified, I didn’t run because it was so hard to train in the New England winter, but I am proud to say I have now run the Boston Marathon eleven times! I qualified with my very first marathon, running the 1989 Montreal marathon in 3:35. It was so awesome that I qualified — I just had to do Boston that first year! Sad to say the only thing I remember about that race was the blisters on my feet, and how I couldn’t fit in my long runs in and just ran it to finish.:) I don’t have any photos of me running, or the trip.  And I can’t find the medal – I have moved so many times…. I hope it shows up somewhere.

1993 - The Basketball Player

Nancy Peck
Woodstock, Vermont
April 19, 1993
Age – 28

I remember 1993 because I was coaching varsity girls basketball at Woodstock High School in Vermont, and working at the recreation center as the Aquatics Director. My friend Christina Paugh and I had a great time on this road trip to Boston, stayed at a cheap hotel and bargain shopping in the city. [I may have a few photos of this trip, but will have to look harder in my boxes that I seem to drag everywhere I go. 🙂] Again, most of my training was sprinting with the girls at practice, no long runs, but I qualified, so darn it, I was going to do it! But sprinting with the girls just wasn’t enough — this one was tough!

2002 - The Marathon Mom

Nancy E. Peck
Sunapee, New Hampshire
April 15, 2002
Age – 37
Bib # 11676

Schuyler, early cross training
This Boston Marathon I ran six months postpartum. I qualified for Boston 2000 and was able to get a deferral because I was pregnant with my son Schuyler. Schuyler was born on 10/10/01 with a C section, where my lower stomach was cut so he could arrive to the world safely. I trained diligently through my pregnancy. I remember wearing a skin suit and riding my bike at eight months pregnant with my friend Petra – she will tell you the story of how strong I was all the way through those nine months. I would walk at a fast pace in hopes my baby would come, but he was five days late! My training for Boston was hampered because of the C section being a pretty painful recovery, but I did it! I was breast feeding Schuyler just prior to going to the start line. At that time, it was one of the toughest marathons I had ever run and I boast my “Postpartum Marathon” quite often. 🙂 [I have a photo of Schuyler with Frank Shorter from the Expo — but I just can’t seem to fine it (Probably with all those other missing medals!) 🙂]

2007 - The Runaway

I ran my fastest marathon ever, knowing this amazing man would be there for me! He greeted me with a dozen roses and met me at my bus with his ski jacket to warm me up.

It was quite a few years before I ran Boston again, but in 2007 I was back with a vengeance. I was going through a divorce and running was my getaway. I ran before ski teaching and went to spin classes at 6 am. I was thin & feeling strong. I had just met the man of my dreams and Steve was waiting for me at the finish line. I could feel his energy. This was the year of the pending Nor’easter that threatened cancellation of the marathon. It was raining at the start, cold, wet and everyone was piled on top of each other in the tent at the Athletes village.

I remember the spectator crowds were very small that year because of the cold weather and the finish line was very quiet. Steve found some “friends” and cheered me across the line. So in love. I placed 7th Master, but I didn’t realize it until I got home just how well I did that year. It was so amazing and I have this beautiful crystal trophy engraved on my shelf to show my achievement. This race is not only my PR in the marathon, but my PR in the half marathon with a 1:25.

2008 - Fast Master!

Nancy E. Cook
Belchertown, Massachusetts
April 21, 2008
Age – 43
Bib # 3800

This was the year of the LOW number. Your qualification time determines your bib number and my time was SO darn fast! I was crazy excited about my low number: 3800 — how cool is that? I felt so out of place with all those fast girls in the front corral, but I was smiling ear to ear! 🙂 It was great to experience the Expo with my true love, we had just married in October and were crazy in love! As a top ranked master runner in the mountain running and marathon arena, I really had my hopes up for a fast finish. This early spring marathon is always I challenge, as I have mentioned before, but this course really feels like home to me now.

2010 - The DetermiNator

Nancy E. Cook
Belchertown, Massachusetts
April 19, 2010
Age – 45
Bib # 7536

I ran my first American Cancer Society DetermiNation marathon in Burlington VT after missing Boston 2009 due to a family commitment to ski in Snowbird. 🙂 This Boston was eventful as I met some of the most amazing runners through the American Cancer Society DetermiNation team. Charlie, Cara, & David will be friends of mine for life! It was so fun to be a part of this group & Boston was even MORE meaningful – dedicating my run to a friend & cancer survivor Mary Beth – who since has passed away. I had a fan following with the outreach I was making for the fundraising & it was a nationwide support of friends and colleagues that pushed me forward to the finish! Fighting cancer and raising money to create a world with more birthdays — I was feeling the passion for running and for fighting cancer through my running! I remember dedicating each mile to someone who had been affected by the disease and carrying those names with me along the route for strength.

2011 - Spleen Free!

Nancy E. Cook
Belchertown, Massachusetts
April 18, 2011
Age – 46
Bib # 9162

Many said I was crazy, pushing myself to run after my spleen being removed six weeks before this Boston, because doctors thought they found more cancer. It was the focus and drive of running that kept me healthy and sane during my lymphoma diagnosis and treatment. I was determined to run and again raising money for the American Cancer Society and running for DetermiNation. It was tough missing 3 weeks of training, so I “banked” my miles early running 50 plus mile weeks.. It was mentally tough not knowing what I could do and if and when I would feel crappy. But the weather was ideal and I was very fit, feeling healthy once again after my 6 months of chemotherapy behind me. Charlie, David & Cara – The “Dream Team” was there to support me, and Matt & Jill joined the team and gave even more support. I was so proud to be a strong athlete cancer survivor and an inspiration to others. Can you see it in my smile?  I finished strong and happy!

2012 - The Survivor

Nancy E. Cook
Belchertown, Massachusetts
April 16, 2012
Age – 47
Bib # 13271


My battle with cancer was the toughest marathon of my life. I ran the 2010 Chicago Marathon two-thirds of my way through chemo treatment while wearing a cape. My body was pretty beat up from chemo. I had lost a bunch of weight. I ran the race in a Wonder Woman outfit, and my girlfriend had on a Batgirl outfit. My sister had made the outfits. I actually ran a Boston qualifier time; four hours. I did pretty well considering I was training in the middle of treatment.

Not quite two years past my diagnosis, I was not only a cancer survivor, but I survived this crazy Boston Marathon 2012 – in the “Extreme Heat Year” where the temps were pushing mid 80s and everyone was searching for shade. Pushing for a post cancer PR, my miles and training prior were in tune with a goal of 3:19. I really had the training behind me running all through the winter with a crazy 109 run streak and getting in three long runs too. It was tough out there. I had my Wonder Woman costume made by my sister, and the skirt was DRENCHED! The water tunnels, the water hoses from all the houses on the route, plus dumping the water from the aid stations on my body helped me to keep cool, and try to keep my pace. It was exhausting and I was bummed every time I looked at my Garmin to see the slower pace. My goal was adjusted many times, and I was happy to finish as well as I did. It has been a real tough one to recover from too — my legs still hurt after three days. But I was proud to have finished my eighth Boston Marathon with a “BQ” for my age group and impressive time with the consideration of the crazy heat!

[The above summary grew from my blog duties as a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador. I ran Boston again in ’13, ’14, and ’15, extending a streak to six straight.]

2013 - Mixed Emotions

Nancy P Cook 2013

Nancy E. Cook
Belchertown, Massachusetts
April 15, 2013
Age – 48
Bib # 10006

Hyperextending my knee in February 2013 was devastating to my running, my knee was unstable and I ran a 10 and 8 miler were my longest runs. It hurt to push those last miles starting at that Citgo sign — but rounding that corner and hearing the cheers of the crowd was just SO amazing! Then it happened — we heard the bombs blow – BOOM! BOOM! Two in a row! Yikes! We were at the buses about four blocks away and saw glass coming out of the windows! The flurry of people moving people out of the way, emergency vehicles and cops running down the street was all around us. We stood there and watched. My extended recap can be found here.

2014 - The Boston Strong Runner

Nancy E. Cook
Belchertown, Massachusetts
April 21, 2014
Age – 49
Bib # 20465

In 2014, I finished my 30th marathon: my 10th Boston Marathon and after the tragedy of the bombing, the lives lost and the people injured, it was time to take back that finish line! I was so proud to be a part of that healing, and so happy to experience the Boston Strong spirit every inch of the 26.2 mile course. Beyond that, to be so incredibly supported by my friends and family — watching me, tracking me and cheering me from afar — it was an amazing experience I will remember for a lifetime! My extended recap can be found here.


2015 - Feeling at Home Again

Nancy E. Cook
Belchertown, Massachusetts
April 20, 2015
Age – 50
Bib # 13626

I love the Boston Marathon, not only because it is “home”, not only because of the crowds, or because of my own history with the race — but because it is a statement about running. It is a statement I am a strong runner – I can face the odds – I have the strength, not just to finish 26.2 miles – but to qualify – and then dedicate myself to finishing The Boston Marathon, the granddaddy of them all. Always looking forward to — Marathon Monday – Patriots Day – with the Dream Team – to running another marathon – another Boston Marathon!

Photo by my husband Steve: We didn't see him here, but you can see we were working the crowd.

“The Toughest Marathon of My Life: My battle with Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma” is my online journal sharing my experience through battling this cancer that abruptly entered my life at age 46.

in 2019, Danny “Running, Life, and Everything In Between” Krahe interviewed me for his DIZRUNS.COM radio podcast “Episode 766 – Nancy Cook Not Only Conquers Mountains But Cancer As Well.” In the program I had the opportunity to talk about my post-cancer running and my gravitating to mountains and trails.