A “Once in a Lifetime” father – daughter run – Meaghan Ellis (April 18, 2011)

The Boston Marathon course runs through everything that is special to me in Boston. It runs through Natick, where my mom’s parents live. It runs through Wellesley, where my dad’s parents live and where both of my parents grew up. In Newton it runs through the rowdy stretch of Commonwealth Avenue that is Boston College, my dream college-turned-alma mater. And finally, the course winds right into Copley Square, the center of my favorite city. My dad, aunt and I all ran our first marathon at Boston in 2011 and our entire extended family rallied behind us as we trained through that snowy winter. My cousin Jeff had tragically passed away at age 19 from a brain injury nearly a year to the day earlier, and my dad and aunt ran for Team Spaulding, where Jeff was treated. The cause was deeply personal for my family and added yet another layer of significance to the day.

April 18, 2011 was absolutely beautiful. Dubbed “once in a lifetime” conditions, there was a steady tailwind, overcast skies and cool temperatures. I sat with college friends in Athletes’ Village nervously waiting and people watching before finding my dad at the start. We ran all 26.2 miles together, a truly special father-daughter experience. We gave little kids high-fives, enjoyed the bands, laughed at the signs, kept tabs on the Sox game (thanks to those people who held up signs with real-time scores- only in Boston!). My brother secretly came from college to cheer us on, and I only found out by seeing him on the side of the road at Newton-Wellesley!

Here I am running with my dad when I saw my brother on the sidelines-
I had no idea he was coming from college so it was a total shock and surprise! 

We hugged the Wellesley girls, embraced our family members in Natick and Wellesley, ran shoulder-to-shoulder, grimacing and muttering up those Newton hills and laughed with joy and likely delirium at Boston College with my (rather inebriated) college friends. We embraced in Copley Square, wrapped in silver blankets, blaming our tears on the wind. I plan to run more marathons, but I don’t think any race will ever top that day. April 18, 2011 was one of the best days of my life.

With my father Andrew Ellis right after we posted a pair of 4:29:31’s… 

Two years later, I was again on the course, but this time as a volunteer. My friends and I had signed up to work the water stop at mile 18, and had a wonderful time encouraging the runners during one of the most trying parts of the course. After our shift, we decided to watch the end of the race so we hopped on an inbound T. We were halted in Brookline, our phones began to buzz incessantly, and we slowly found out why. As I walked back to my apartment in the city, I saw runners sitting on the curb, head in hands, crying. I saw the fear in everybody’s eyes, and I heard the helicopters buzzing overhead. I heard the panic in the voices of my family over the phone. Later that week I was on lockdown in my apartment, eyes glued to the TV as familiar Watertown, site of many college trips to Target and Forever 21, became an international crime scene.

I wasn’t sure I’d ever run Boston again – I need to drop a solid hour off of my marathon time to qualify, and I didn’t see any reason to run again anyway, given that nothing could top 2011 in my mind. But after the events of last year, after seeing Boston grieve, I’ve signed up to run with the Boston College team again. While we won’t have bibs and could potentially get kicked off the course, I’m still training because I want nothing more than to be there on that day, running Boston Strong. It will be emotional for entirely different reasons this time around, and I can’t wait for what is sure to be yet another “once in a lifetime” experience on those 26.2 miles of Boston roads.

Meaghan Ellis
New York, New York

For more personal accounts of the 2011 Boston marathon, click here.

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