From Chasing the Family Station Wagon to the Quarter Century Club

My eleven siblings and I were raised on a dairy farm in Reedsville, Wisconsin, by awesome, hard-working parents. Quite often instead of us taking the bus home, our Mom or Pa would pick us up from school in our old Ford station wagon, so we could get milking chores started earlier.

In 1964 when I was in kindergarten, the thing I looked forward to the most was having my whole family waiting for me to literally “run” out to the car, and have my Pa yell to me every day “See how fast Kathy can run!”

So I would run as fast as I could. I thought I was a champion! I thought I was fast. I’m sure I wasn’t, but it felt good!

Pa’s positive words planted a seed that would grow to influence my whole life! Was that what he was expecting? Or in his own sneaky way was he thinking, “Come on, we have cows to milk – move your butt!” In either case, bless his kind heart!

635961512667500225-gpg-0415-marathon-milestone-1That Spring, again on our way home from school, I heard the Boston Marathon results being read on the radio. I only knew the Boston Marathon was a really long running race. Since our Pa had me convinced I was a fast runner, I asked him if he thought I could one day run that race, and he said “Yes, I believe you could run the Boston Marathon.” Again, bless his kind heart for always believing in me. He supported me from Day 1! That idea just stuck with me over the next two decades, and exactly 25 years later, I proved Pa right and ran the Boston Marathon!

Growing up, we were very poor in material things, but we were so rich in the things money can’t buy. We kids really didn’t have toys, so we would fight and chase each other. So really, running has ALWAYS been a part of all of our lives. Around Thanksgiving time, when the crops were harvested, our Mom and Pa, and half of us kids would set out for a road trip, and the other half would stay home and run the farm. We went to cool, faraway places, like Florida and Texas. Our Pa was also a brave man – When we stopped for the night at a campground or wherever, he had to make sure we parked on a hill so he could “pop the clutch” and get the car started in the morning.

635961512631151992-gpg-0415-marathon-milestone-3When we started getting too restless and fighting too much, Pa would stop the car – no matter the weather or where we were. He would then drop us off and drive one mile ahead, and we had to run to the car. When we got dropped off, we had been fighting like cats and dogs, but by the time we had run our mile back to the car, we were all laughing so hard we could hardly breathe! Yes, Pa was a very, very smart man! Many of my family members are runners even today and I attribute this at least partially to this unorthdox training technique!

Every Fall as I was supposed to be doing my farm chores, I would watch the cross-country team from Brillion High School run by our farm on training runs, often with Coach Glenn Seering running with them. I used to think, “I can beat those boys!”

School was always difficult for me, and there were some real dark times as I SO did not fit in and I was painfully shy; but running brought me a whole new world of hope and confidence over the years, and running track in high school (there was no girls’ cross country team) literally saved my life! I finally found my niche!

Years went by and after finishing school, I kept running the shorter distance races. Finally, in 1991 it was time for my first marathon, the Fox Cities Marathon in Appleton. I was so hoping to qualify for Boston and have my childhood dream come true. I finished 20 minutes faster than my qualifying standard! I will never forget the grin on my son Nicholas’s face and the look in my daughter Sarah’s eyes as she asked me as I crossed the finish line, “Are we going to Boston?” Our Pa had started running in about 1977 and he, my sisters Rose and Nettie, and brother Joe have also run Fox Cities. [I still credit at least some of this love for running in my family to being kicked out of the station wagon on road trips!]

Some years later, Bellin Health CEO George Kerwin, a longtime running acquaintance, replaced my first Boston medal for me, so I have a full collection of 25. (Photo: Todd McMahon/USATODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

April, 1992 – My first Boston Marathon. I was blessed to have both my kids and my Mom and Pa with me on that very special day, with all my family acting as cheerleaders and yelling from wherever they were! Pa ran as a “bandit” (an unregistered runner who runs the same course, but starts at the back of the pack). What a beautiful gift they had given me by being such an awesome part of my childhood dream! Pa died of cancer about a year later, and was buried with my first Boston Marathon medal, and our Mom died the next year, also of cancer. I miss them so much, but I know they are with me in spirit! I am so thankful to say I have now run my 25th consecutive Boston Marathon, and I can feel them there, right there with me, every step of the way, every single year!

I have had two close calls in keeping my consecutive Boston streak alive.

One year just weeks before the race I was having foot pain so extreme I could barely walk it hurt so much. I had a temporary fix performed so I could continue the streak, then later in the year had a permanent fix for the problem. I was really lucky to have a provider who cares about each patient. He tailored his treatment schedule to my specific needs, and kept me racing Boston!

Then in 2014, I slipped on a patch of ice on my driveway while going to work. The bone bruise in my left knee kept me from running for six weeks. I managed to drive to Boston, run the first portion of the race at a slow pace, and then shuffled along the rest of the way. I finished in 4:54:05, my worst time ever. That was painful, but I cannot tell you how thankful I was to still participate. (My best Boston time was 3:01 in 1998, when I finished 53rd among the women.)

img_2221There is something about this marathon that is so special, I don’t ever want to miss it. I would sure love to run the New York City Marathon one year, but I would have to give up Boston to make it happen financially, and giving up Boston is not an option for me. I LOVE YOU, BOSTON!

For my 25th Boston Marathon (which was also my marathon number 100), I had my brother Bill and his wife Julie; my sister Nettie and her husband Mark; and my daughter Sarah and her three-year-old son McCoy all accompany me, and it was the best weekend of my life!

A special treat came when my brother Jim flew through the night to surprise me at the finish line. Unexpectedly seeing him there was one of the best moments of very special weekend!

I could never have come this far without the support from my family and I will be forever grateful! My goal was to run in under four hours, and I only missed my target by five seconds. What an honor to join the half dozen women in Boston’s Quarter Century Club!

“The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running!” God Bless the City of Boston and all involved in this most hallowed Boston Marathon! My young grandson McCoy tells me he will win the Boston Marathon when he’s older. I hope I am still running the race when it happens!

Kathy Waldron
Green Bay, Wisconsin