Taking Back the Marathon: For My Father

The Boston Marathon has traditionally been a day of partying for local college students, with little focus on the running of the race itself. However, the tragic bombings that occurred on April 15,  2013 have inspired many to run in 2014. Taking Back the Marathon features Boston College students who are planning to run in the 2014 Boston Marathon, along with the stories behind their motivation to make this year's race one to remember.

Sothavy Doeur, LSOE '15

My father has chronic liver failure. His liver has been failing gradually for some time. For many years, he has been struggling for his life to remain strong for my mother and I. The summer prior to sophomore year at Boston College, my father informed me that he only has three years to live. I couldn’t fathom the emotions that had overwhelmed me. But despite his illness, my father continues to work extremely hard and has never made an excuse because if he could live one extra day means an extra day to spend his life with his daughter. If I could aspire to be like anyone, I aspire to be like my father.

He has endured more than anyone I know. He was a child soldier in the Cambodian genocide and lost many of his family members through this tragedy. So fighting to live was nothing new to him. After my father informed me of how much time he had left, I began to struggle in school. There wasn’t a day that had gone by that I would not think of how my father was doing. I wanted to do something that could push me to my limits and I found that through running. I could not imagine what my father had to go through and while our struggles are different, I see running as a way to show the strength my father has passed on to me.

I was not exactly sure how running became a part of my life. I can recall being involved in soccer in high school and the happiness soccer gave me. However, I never enjoyed the running that we had to do prior to soccer drills. During practice we would run for a few miles, but it never appealed to me. I did not enjoy the amount of sweat that would accumulate or the soreness that would numb my legs. My mind was not intertwined with my body and I hated the pounding of the pavement. Each step felt painful but I had to force myself to keep going or else I would not be able to participate in other soccer drills. In essence, running was a force, not a pleasure.

After learning about the bombings that had occurred in the 2013 Boston Marathon, I became compelled to do something. I can recall the Boston community instilling each other with hope and bravery despite such a tragedy. I knew I wanted to give back somehow and so the thoughts of running the 2014 Boston Marathon crept into my mind. I started going to the track near my house this past summer where I’d run for fun with my cousins. Then, I made it a routine to go each and everyday. What started off as a fun summer hobby transformed into a ritual. Each time I went running, I realized that I could keep going and I didn’t need to stop.  0.5 miles turned into a mile. A mile turned into two miles. Two miles turned into three miles. By the end of the summer, I increased my mileage from zero to five miles. The tranquility of the warm summer breeze reminded me of how truly thankful I am of life. The more I ran the more time I thought of flashbacks to the moments I’ve spent with my father. Each step I took was a testament of how strong and determined I was and continue to be. I was not doing this just for myself but for my father.

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Frankie Bernard / Gavel Media

When I learned of the opportunity to run the marathon through the Campus School, I couldn’t resist. It meant a lot to me because one of my brothers is mentally disabled and while I dedicate my run to my father, running for the Campus School is a dedication to my brother as well. I followed the training schedule that they provided and while I do have a hectic schedule, it’s worked to my advantage because I love running at night. After a long day, I can focus on myself. I would run during the week in the Plex and do my long runs outside on the weekend. Each time I ran, I was reminded that I could prevail in the midst of my darkness. Every time I ran, I always thought of my dad. While I have had sleepless nights filled with tears thinking that I could lose him at any moment, I remain strong.

I know my dad wouldn’t want me to feel this way because he’s already happy that his daughter is the first in the family to go to college. Being at BC hasn’t been the easiest journey for me, but running has lifted me up during these times.

I completed my first 5K in my hometown of Providence, Rhode Island over the summer and I remember standing in the sea of people who were preparing to run. I was not completely sure if I was ready but I knew I couldn’t end my battle here. During the race, I couldn’t help but to wonder why I was far behind so many people. They were running faster than me and I couldn’t keep up. But I thought back to what my father told me. He taught me that in life, we must follow our own goals and our own happiness because when we try to live other people’s dreams, we hinder not only our progress, but also our happiness. In that moment in time, I told myself I was not going to allow others to define me. I made sure to go at my own pace and sure enough I completed my first 5K with grace. I carried on this concept to my first 10K.

I learned of the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women in Boston through a friend. I remembered how much fun I had running my first 5K in Providence, so I decided to participate, even though it was twice the distance. Prior to the race, I felt the rush of adrenaline running through my body as I stretched and tied my shoes. I could not believe how many women came to race that day-- all for different reasons. I was continuing my commitment to run for my father while these women were running for various commitments ranging from family to promoting a health organization. As the race went on, I made sure to go at my own pace, just like I did during my 5K. What was different this time was I felt ready. Unlike running during soccer practice, my body and my mind were intertwined. I did not want to escape this feeling.

I remember starting off last summer and not being able to run a mile without stopping. Completing 13.2 miles with the Campus School last weekend meant I am halfway there but it also reminds me I still have a long journey ahead. Being away from my family at BC made me homesick many times, but running with the Campus School reminds me that BC is my second home. The feelings of loneliness still envelop me and I’d yearn for more moments with my father. He could be gone at any minute but I know I should not think that way because the concept of death has taught me to embrace life more closely. The glory of completing the 2014 Boston Marathon is a fulfillment of my success, belief in myself, and my goal to never stop fighting, just like my dad.

Papi, this is for you. Thank you.

Sothavy is fundraising for the Campus School. If you would like to donate to her fundraising efforts, click here: Sothavy's First Marathon.

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