AMR Love Week: Kerry Swift + Follow This Mother!

The strong, unstoppable force that is Kerry and her family.
The strong, unstoppable force that is Kerry and her family.

What’s an AMR Love Week without a special edition of Follow This Mother? When we heard from Kerry Swift, 42 and mom of 6-year-old Brynna and 4-year-old Griffin, we knew she’d be the perfect mother runner to profile this week. Kerry, who lives in Burlington, VT and is training for this year’s Boston Marathon, is running to honor the memory of two people who played important roles in her life: her younger brother Brian, who lost his battle with osteosarcoma in 1995, and her BRF Julie Kelliher, a mother runner who passed away a year ago this month.

Kerry's brother Brian, who passed away just shy of his 18th birthday.
Kerry's brother Brian, who passed away just shy of his 18th birthday. "Eighteen years later, I still miss him terribly, but am constantly reminded of his joy in what was important: his family and friends, his home town, sports, being outdoors, and keeping a sense of humor, even through tough times. And it was this joy and love that I took to the 2009 Boston Marathon where I ran my first marathon and raised over $10,000 for the DFMC."

“Julie was my sounding board on all things – work, parenting, living in Vermont and often those conversations went on over the dirt roads of Underhill as we ran together,” Kerry says. “In late 2012, Julie received an initial diagnosis of MS that seemed to explain her increasing fatigue, nausea, and dizziness, but initial treatments didn’t make a dent. In fact, she was getting worse, and a CT scan in January 2013 showed the real culprit, a glioblastoma multiforma (GBM) brain tumor that was inoperable. We lost Julie February 10, 2013 and VT, the world, lost a smart, generous, beautiful soul.”

Boston '14 will be Kerry's second 26.2, and she's running the race as a member of the 25th Dana Farber Marathon Challenge Team (#DFMC25). This is a team of over 700 runners raising money to benefit the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research, which is located at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in Boston, MA. “Our team goal this year is to raise $5.3 million dollars for the Barr Program and personally, I hope to raise $15,000." So far, she's raised $3,000.

Best recent run: Saturday’s 15 miles. Returned back to my old neighborhood in Underhill and ran a very familiar 5 mile out and back (up and down, too) three times. First one was with my dog Hailey, which is how I’d tire her out in 2009 when I was training for my first #DFMC. She acted just like that 3-year-old puppy again—so happy to be in her old stomping grounds. Then it was just me and the snow-covered road—I killed that hill each time I went up it and even found a few moments of blissful zone running, the first time for me in this training cycle and it gave me hope that I can run long happy again.

BRFs Kerry and Julie.
BRFs Kerry and Julie a few years ago: a cherished memory.

Coffee or tea? Coffee all the way…unless I’m pregnant (NOT!)

Squats or lunges? Lunges, although my PT thinks squats would be better for me.

Mindless television or curl up with a good book after a long day? Book, although more likely one of the endless New Yorkers I have piled next to my bed. I’m weeks behind and should just declare New Yorker bankruptcy.

5K or half-marathon?: I’m a better long runner, but nothing beats a good 5K out on the cross-country trails.

What keeps me going when I hit a rough patch in a race: Pure stubbornness and years of racing in rowing, swimming, and running. You don’t quit.

What I thought about during today’s run: It’s been cross-training these last two days, but on Saturday I was catching Ms. Julie up on where I was after a year and where I hoped to be in the next. It’s pretty easy to talk to yourself, cry and laugh a little, out in the Vermont boonies.

My Best Mile Ever: No matter how hard or crappy it is, the first mile of my run is the best because I’ve gotten myself out the door, not succumbed to the excuses, and given myself the gift of time and exercise.

Kerry with husband Nate and their son Griffin.
Kerry with husband Nate with daughter Brynna, then 15 months old. (Kerry found out she was pregnant with son Griffin a couple of weeks later, so he's in this picture, too!)

Piece of running gear I can’t bear to part with: He’s not exactly gear, but my partner, friend, love, and husband Nate makes it so I can get in these hours of running AND a long warm shower afterwards. We really try and help each other find the balance between work, kids, and, well, life, and he’s stepped up incredibly to make this as easy on me as possible.

My running goal for the Boston Marathon: To run and fuel smart so I can enjoy every mile and savor the celebration with friends and family afterwards – I’ll save the faster race times for that nexthalf-marathon (under 2 hours, baby!).

My running, in three words: My moving meditation.

Follow This Mother on Twitter and over at her blog Row Girl Goes Running.

Although there are many incredible efforts out there to support the fight against cancer, Kerry says the DFMC and the Barr Program are one of a few that support efforts at the basic and very fundamental levels of research. In addition, 100% of any donation you make goes directly to those research efforts, since the Barr Program is fully supported administratively. This means when you give to the DFMC team you are directly funding experiments that could be the foundation of the next chemotherapy, the next diagnostic, and the next therapeutic treatments that we aren’t even aware of yet.

If you're interested in supporting innovative research and new understanding of all types of cancer, donations may be made either at Kerry's DFMC webpage or through the mail. Checks should be made out to "Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge" and sent to Kerry at 35 Crombie St, Burlington, VT 05401. With each donation, Kerry will attach a ribbon to her singlet in honor of an individual of your choosing. 


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