With wobbly legs, woozy stomachs and foggy heads, some Emerson students spent Patriots Day trekking 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston with some 25,000 others, all on foot. Some chased celebrity cyclist Lance Armstrong, others ran with friends and loved ones, but all interviewed aimed to complete the 112th Boston Marathon for sentimental reasons.
For three-time marathon runner Alan Gwizdowski, a junior TV/video major, the 2008 race presented two opportunities: to run in remembrance of the Virginia Tech massacre, which occurred on Marathon Monday last year, and, on a lighter note, to try to beat Lance.
After crossing the Copley Square finish line last year in 3:25, Gwizdowski met his parents and heard the distressing news. His sister, then a Virginia Tech senior, was working on campus during the shootings. She called her parents during the race to tell them she was OK, but Gwizdowski knew nothing until the finish.
"I called my dad at mile 25 because I had my cell phone with me," he said. "He didn't tell me anything was going on. As soon as he hung up with me, he got his first phone call from my sister, [whom] he hadn't heard from all day. So I basically decided I was going to [run] it again and wear Virginia Tech stuff."
Then, when he discovered seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong was racing, and that his 2:46:43 qualifying time was within reach, Gwizdowski had to go after the big guy.
"I knew I wanted to do it," he said. "It was just a matter of whether I wanted to run fast or not." After more than four months of vigorous training, peaking at 60 to 70 miles per week, Gwizdowski completed the marathon in 3:00:18, about 10 minutes behind Armstrong. He wanted to break three hours, but wrote off the additional 18 seconds to tying his shoes-twice.
Gwizdowski said he never saw Armstrong, but probably started near him. Armstrong's qualifying time from the New York City Marathon would have put him in or ahead of the third starting group, which Gwizdowski was in, but Armstrong's high-profile status earned him an honorary spot up front with the first elite runners.
Elsewhere on the course, other Emerson runners were pursuing their own goals. Sophomore Dana Filek-Gibson, a writing, literature and publishing major and a Beacon copyeditor, carried out her family's three-generation running tradition by completing her first marathon. With veteran marathon-runners for parents, athletic grandparents and a younger brother that runs as well, Filek-Gibson was born with jogging genes.
At mile 17, where the hills start, her father jumped in and ran with her for the rest of the race. Filek-Gibson said she felt fine until then, but reached her dad at a critical moment.
"Suddenly, my legs felt like someone had put Icy Hot all over them," she said. "I had never had that feeling before. He just kept talking me through it."
The two finished in 4:22 and celebrated the feat and her father's birthday that night.
That same evening, senior marketing communication major Julie Walden and her dad John, who works as Emerson's construction manager, enjoyed a similar birthday and race day dinner together. After running her first marathon in the same 4:22 time as Filek-Gibson, Walden celebrated with her father, who used to run marathons before several knee surgeries, on his birthday. Having him and her mother cheering her on at mile 24, she said, helped her through the final stretch.
Besides family, Walden had the support of her boyfriend, a senior at Maine Maritime Academy, who ran with her from start to finish. He never ran before he met her three years ago, she said, and not only did he complete his first marathon, but he actually pushed her to run faster.
"We held hands for the last stretch [to the finish]," Walden said,. "It was just amazing to finish. It felt like you were on the red carpet. That's the only way I can explain it-everyone was cheering for you."
An estimated 600,000 spectators lined the course. Freshman Janine Seidel, a marketing communication major and an Emerson cross-country runner along with Walden and Filek-Gibson, was running her first marathon. Seidel was joined by her marathon-running mom at mile 19.
"She was just like, 'I'm here! Do you want me to jump in?'" Seidel said. "It was actually good to have someone that was fresh." Her mother, who ran the same race when Seidel was a toddler, crossed the finish line again with her daughter, who clocked in around 4:30.
"When we turned [the last corner] and you could see the finish line. . . it was just so cool because you knew you were going to get it," Seidel said. "You don't necessarily feel your body anymore, but you just have to keep your head into it. I don't know how to explain it. I'm just so delirious right now."
Unlike Seidel's mom, who runs every day, junior Lisa DeVito's mother trained to run only the last three miles with her daughter. DeVito, a communication sciences and disorders major, met her mom around the 23-mile mark. DeVito's mom, who traveled from Long Island, N.Y., had never run before. DeVito finished her first marathon in about 5 hours 7 minutes with her mother by her side.
Earlier in the race, DeVito also received a boost from her boyfriend's mother, who entertained her from mile 16 to 23. She also ran with cross-country teammate Seidel for the first 20 miles.
"We were making great time in the beginning," DeVito said. "Then the end was the hardest. [At] mile 24, I was like, this hurts like hell. The last two miles was really tough, and I didn't expect it to hurt that bad."
Crossing the finish line with her mother wasn't as sentimental as she anticipated, she said, mostly because said she felt like she was going to pass out. After sitting in a wheelchair and eating, however, DeVito said she was fine. She laughed when she recalled her boyfriend's mom asking her during the race if she planned on signing up for the New York Marathon. "I was like, 'I'm going to get through this right now,'" she said.
Her teammate, junior Lena Campagna, was ecstatic about the whole experience.
"I really enjoyed training," the marketing communication major said. "It was awesome.like going for long runs on Saturdays with the girls and getting ready for it."
Side by side with one of her good friends who ran the last six miles with her, Campagna finished in around 4:30.
"Just crossing the finish line was probably the happiest moment of my life for two reasons," she said. "One, because you're done. Two, because you're finished."
She and the rest of the Emerson marathoners shared similar sentiments after the race. They were excited and delirious, but unsure if they planned to run next year. However, they were happy to have spent their school day off accomplishing what less than one percent of the world population has done, and in the company of Lance Armstrong.