By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN
They say each journey begins with a single step. For those who have registered to run in the Boston Marathon, including some with ties to the Lakes Region, that first step will be followed by tens of thousands more.
Kara Irwin, who grew up in Laconia and graduated from Laconia High School in 2004, was athletic in high school but didn't pick up running until she became an adult. In 2013, she ran ran her first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., When she found out that her employer, the YMCA of Greater Boston, was fielding a team for the Boston Marathon, to be held this year on April 18, she was eager to join.
As part of the team, Irwin has a fund raising goal of $8,000, and Boston is likely to be more difficult than the Marine Corps marathon, she said. But, she's energized to tackle the challenge.
"Understanding the cause and the mission of the Y makes it easier," she said. She also has the assistant of the Boston YMCA's healthy living specialist coaching the team of runners. In her current training regimen, she has run up to 16.5 miles, and her longest planned training run is 22 miles.
In 2013, Irwin was among the spectators near the finish line when the Tsarnaev bothers set off two homemade bombs, killing three and injuring more than 200. She said she was about a half-block away from the first explosion, and saw the second bomb explode seconds later.
"We were on Boylston Street, we ran through one of the restaurants there, across the Mass. Ave Bridge and kept running." For Irwin, experiencing the attack, as well as the subsequent pursuit of suspects and community response to the tragedy, provides motivation. "It was a scary experience, but it makes you feel proud of where you live, and proud to accomplish something like that."
The bombings are also a source of motivation for Rebecca Bagdigian, 22, who lives in Boston and is running to raise money for Camp Hale in Holderness. Bagdigian grew up in Stowe, Massachusetts, and said she always watched coverage of the marathon. She then moved to Boston and made it a point to observe the event in person.
"Then the bombings happened, and I wanted to be part of it," she said. In 2013, she would have been at the finish line, had she not overslept and missed her train. "It was pretty terrifying," she said.
Bagdigian is still living in Boston, where she is studying architecture at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. For the past two summers, she has worked as a camp counselor at Camp Hale, in Holderness, where she enjoys introducing young people to the natural world and challenging them to achieve things they didn't know they can do. She imagines that this summer, she can use her marathon run as inspiration.
"Listen, if I can run 26 miles, you can get to the top of this mountain," she said.
This will be Bagdigian's first full marathon – she has done two half marathons so far – and Sandy Woehr-Blouin said she will likely be hooked on the experience. Woehr-Blouin, 53, ran her first marathon when she was 49. Her first was the Philadelphia Marathon, she didn't run in 2013 for superstitious reasons, and this year's Boston Marathon will be her third consecutive running.
Woehr-Blouin, an Alton resident for nearly 30 years, had a rough time during her first Boston Marathon.
"At mile three, I got tripped." She fell and badly scraped her arms on the pavement. The pain from her arms was distracting enough that she was able to run the rest of the race without noticing that she had sprained her ankle – something she realized the following day. Still, she had to come back the next year.
"The people definitely bring you back, the crowd of people is just amazing," she said. Even last year, despite rain, the entire length of the course was filled with spectators, "people you don't even know are out there, cheering for you, it's amazing," she said. And then, after nearly four hours of running, the athletes turn onto Boylston Street for the final leg.
"For that last hundred feet, the crowd just roars, it gives you chills. It's a really cool thing."
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