By Karissa Blackburn
CHAPMANVILLE - Stephanie Abraham may live in Chapmanville, but she will prove to everyone just how Boston Strong she is on Monday, when she runs in the prestigious Boston Marathon.
The Boston Marathon is every runner’s dream race. The course is a tough 26.2 miles through the hills of the New England host city, the entrance requirements are highly selective, and it is the oldest marathon in the United States. In fact, the first one was held in 1897.
And if that isn’t appealing enough, the prize money will make you reconsider. According to the Boston Athletic Association’s official website, the top 15 men and women will receive between $150,000 for first place and $1,500 for 15th place, the top five men and women in the 40-and-over division will receive between $10,000 for first place and $1,000 for fifth place and the top 10 men and women in the wheelchair division will receive between $15,000 for first place and $500 for 10th place.
Although there have been 117 races preceding this one, this year things are a little different. It is the first anniversary of the “Boston Massacre.” Last year, two bombs exploded near the finish line in the group of supporters gathered to watch the race. It was an act of violence so hideous that it killed three people and injured hundreds more.
The Boston marathoners are always celebrated for courage, perseverance and strength, but those qualities will be amplified this year when the 36,000 participants hit the pavement with their running shoes shouting a cry to be heard around the world: you cannot stop us.
Abraham has wanted to run the Boston Marathon for a while, but she is particularly glad that she gets to experience it this year because of the events that occurred last year. When she realized that she had a qualifying time, entering was a no-brainer.
“Runners are a resilient group of people,” she said. “This year, Boston Strong is just about getting out there and moving past all of this. You know, remembering the lost and the survivors, but moving on.”
Abraham said she remembers exactly where she was when she heard about the massacre last year.
“Running builds this camaraderie around people, and it felt like a very personal attack,” she said. “Those people out there running were my friends. But even more than that, I think what hits home for a lot of runners is that the attack was inside the crowd. Inside the runners’ support group.
“There is no runner that doesn’t have a support group, people to push them and help them reach their goals,” she said. “For me, it’s my family and friends, especially my husband and sons who have sacrificed so much time so I can accomplish my dream. The thought of an attack on those people is unbearable.”
Abraham said she has the greatest support group ever because, not only does it include her family and close friends, but the entire county has gotten behind her.
“I would just like to say thank you to the people of Logan County,” she said. “The support has been so touching and uplifting over the past few days. I mean, I’ll be out running on the highway and the cars driving by will just wave at me. Complete strangers! My community means the world to me. I am so grateful to have them behind me.”
Before racing on Monday, Abraham’s personal record for a marathon is three hours and 33 minutes. She hopes to beat that in Boston, jumping all the way down into the 3:20’s.
“Logan County helped me in support, but also in terrain. This is the best place I could have trained. The course is very hilly, and that’s something I train on everyday here. Hopefully I’m prepared,” she said.
Abraham, her huband and her sons will be leaving for Boston on Saturday. She hopes that spending time in Boston and participating in some of the memorial events will help her sons realize exactly what this race means to her and so many others.
For those interested in keeping up with Abraham during the race on Monday but cannot make it to Boston, the B.A.A. will broadcast every five kilometer split to its website. There you can track the runners’ progress by logging in and entering the name of the participant you wish to see. Also, the AT&T Athlete Alert program allows messages to be automatically delivered to any U.S. mobile phone, pager, or email address.