Another in our series of Most Important Miles to celebrate the fact that we are so grateful for your stories, our collective miles that send strength and love into the world, the community that brings us together, and the simple ability to run.
In 2013, my oldest sister, Elinor Scott, was unable to finish the Boston Marathon because of the terrorist bombing.
In 2014, Elinor, a mother of four, was unable to start the Boston Marathon because she had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
While others spoke of chemo regimens, long-term prognosis, quality of life issues and advancing medical trials, Elinor stayed focused on one goal that kept her motivated in those first months following diagnosis: completing the Boston Marathon.
A long-distance runner, Boston was everything to her. She qualified for the first time in 2012, but her time didn’t allow her to secure a spot in the race. Determined to get her “BQ,” she persevered and earned a spot in the 2013 Boston Marathon. Not running her best marathon that day, she was among the pack of runners stopped by the Boston Police just past mile 25. (Mile 25.4 on her Garmin, to be exact.)
During the Boston attempts, Elinor knew her health was declining. She had been diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a disease that causes muscles to become weak with extended use, a couple of years prior. This was becoming more difficult to control and her symptoms were becoming less specific to this disease, which made her doctors doubt the diagnosis.
Perplexed and unable to find answers, it was suggested she may just have depression and needed to quit running so much. But Elinor loved running more than anything and couldn’t imagine giving it up for any reason, even declining health. Fearful it would become more difficult to qualify, she ran a Boston qualifier at the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon in May 2013. She ran her tenth and last marathon--the Whistle Stop in Ashland, Wisconsin—on October 12, 2013, less than three months before she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer on January 6, 2014.
Crossing the Boston finish line had been her dream. So with the help of family and friends, Elinor sought permission from the race organizers and the Boston Police Department to complete the Boston Marathon. She was going to cross that painted finish line, no matter what.
She failed her first line of chemotherapy and was still recovering from surgery to remove her ovaries, so getting her to Boston was no small feat. With a carry-on bag full of medications including injections to thin her blood, Elinor, her daughter, our mom and I loaded a plane in Minneapolis and hoped for the best.
We landed in Boston, then had to navigate the incredibly tight security to get to Elinor to her own private starting line of of Deerfield and Commonwealth, which is just before the spot where she had been pulled off the course the year prior.
I raced her in a wheelchair through the streets of Boston so we could meet the two officers who had clearance to let her on the course. They were two of the kindest gentlemen I have ever met. I asked how it would be easiest for me to get back to the finish to meet her with the wheelchair, and without hesitation they told me I could walk along with her. After hugs, words of admiration for my sister, and a photo op, they opened the gate to the official course. When my sister stepped on the course with all of the other runners, the crowd went wild.
Weighing in at maybe 100 pounds and bearing her head scarf and Project Purple hat, it was clear she was no ordinary runner. We sobbed tears of joy and amazement for at least a quarter of a mile as the crowd cheered her on. She needed this. We needed this. For a day, the roar of onlookers and well wishers allowed her to forget fears of her illness or doubts about her treatments. Her dampened spirits soared.
My sister passed away on September 12, 2014, less than five months after crossing the Boston finish line and running our most important mile.
On a run last fall on cold, windy trails, I realized I needed to run the Boston Marathon for her.
Fortunately, I can. I have been given the incredible opportunity and honor to run the Boston in remembrance of my sister and in recognition of the thousands of people who are battling pancreatic cancer. I will travel to Boston with my husband, two daughters, mom, middle sister, and niece...it takes a village to support a mother runner, right? With about four weeks to race day, everything is going well, and I can't wait to stand on the starting line.
I know I will become tearful every time I pass a Boston Police officer as I remember the kindness and love they showed my sister.
I am sure I will cry as I reach the final mile of the course as I recall one of the proudest moments I was able to share with my sister in her final year.
In addition to conquering her first marathon, Jodi is raising money for Project Purple, which funds pancreatic cancer research and supports patients and families dealing with pancreatic cancer. If you'd like to donate, please click here.