Beyond Mile 21 is a miniseries featuring the personal stories behind members of the Boston College community and their journeys to run the Boston Marathon.
On a typical Wednesday, Kate Mignosa, CSON '19, sits through classes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Connell School of Nursing, spends the afternoon visiting “the Ladies,” as she calls them, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Juniper House for the service component of her PULSE class, and tops it off with a shift at White Mountain Creamery from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Oh—and she fits in an eight mile run to satisfy her training routine for the day in preparation for the Boston Marathon.
One could say Mignosa’s first few steps weren’t so that she could walk, but so she could run. Her dad is a big marathoner, and she grew up running with him. Mignosa’s older brother also joined them on their runs, and they’ve run a few half marathons together. To Mignosa, running has always been more than just a hobby.
In high school, she was a cross country and track athlete on top of running four half marathons. When Mignosa came to Boston College, she continued to run with an “unofficial BC running club,” Eagles Club Cross Country. She was drawn to the camaraderie the club had, which is what she was missing from her high school team.
Although Mignosa has a deep passion for the sport, the idea of running a full marathon this year didn’t come from her.
While training for another 13.1 mile race last fall, Mignosa would often pass faculty running around Newton Center, east of BC’s campus. It was there she would pass her advisor for her PULSE placement at the Juniper House.
Sometime in December, Mignosa’s advisor approached her with a specific question in mind—whether Mignosa had any interest in running the marathon to fundraise for The Juniper House. As Mignosa recalls, “she said she had seen me running around Newton Center before, and she was looking for someone to fundraise for their team.” Without hesitation, Mignosa jumped in, “I’m you’re girl. I would love to do it,” she cheerfully replied. Even during our short interview, her enthusiasm was palpable.
Before this encounter, Mignosa had dreamed of running the Boston Marathon.“It’s always been on my bucket list,” Mignosa said. “I remember going to the Marathon when I was little with my grandparents, and my family loves the marathon. I hoped during my time at BC I would do it.”
Ending her childhood streak as a spectator must be fate–Mignosa’s love for running collided with her passion for serving others at her PULSE placement. “I don’t know if this would have been the ideal timing, but it tied into my PULSE placement and seemed so full circle. I couldn’t not do it,” Mignosa said.
Since September, Mignosa has spent two days a week with seven highly functioning special needs women (ages range from 30 to 70 years old) at the Juniper House. These women, or “the Ladies” as Mignosa calls them, are what motivate her and have inspired her to run the marathon.
She’s gotten to know the women through their CVS trips, time at Zumba, and holiday parties. Ever since they heard Mignosa will be running, they constantly ask her about it and offer her any advice they can think of.
“They’ve been so open to bond with us and joke around with us, and you can go into the house and feel like you’re coming home from school,” Mignosa said about her time spent at the Juniper House.
“They illustrate to me what it means to live well and be happy and really immerse yourself in your life," she said.
These women have jobs and friends and family, and they have highs and lows of the day, but they always make time to get to know Mignosa. The Ladies ask how her job at White Mountain is going, how her brother and parents are doing, and how nursing classes are, since they know the sophomore is a nursing major.
As for April 17, the Ladies are all prepared for the day with shirts and hats. One women at the House even came up to Mignosa and showed her the calendar with the day marked down for Mignosa’s big run.
In fundraising, Mignosa raised $5,000 from her friends, family, and generous businesses. It was easy for Mignosa to commit to this because, as she says, “knowing that it’s going to this organization that I support was helpful because I know that… it’s a very unique living experience for these women and the organization is really impressive. It really supports allowing their residents to be independent in how they live.” She praises the Juniper House because it “allows [the Ladies’] lives to be equally as full as anyone else's.”
When she isn’t in class, at clinical, or at the Juniper House, Mignosa finds some time to train. She squeezes in her runs before class or in between class and PULSE. Mignosa joked that “The Ladies probably think I only wear running clothes,” seeing that with her busy schedule she is always running around—literally—just to get everything done and continue to train.
After committing to run for the Juniper House, Mignosa started training in January and reached out to her old high school coach for some help, given that she’s never ran a marathon before. She runs six days a week, with one of those days being a longer run. Mignosa saves the longer run for Saturdays, however, because during those 20 to 21 miles she’s reminded of exactly why she loves the sport.
“It’s so motivating to go out and run and see everyone else going for a really long run that day… They come to train on Comm. Ave or practice Heartbreak Hill,” she says. Mignosa reflects on how this brings her back to her cross country days and makes her feel part of a new community—the Marathon trainers. Everyone runs past each other, knowing they’re all training for the same goal. She’s been able to connect with her friends that ran in the past, and other students that are running now because they all hold the same experience in common. She even says, “the training is so fun because everyone is out there, on the course, on the same day. It’s a spirited event. It’s such a Boston event.”
The highlight throughout Mignosa’s journey has been the community collectivity. “I’ve been so lucky to see so much community in it. I have a community at the NWW supporting me as I try and support them, a community in the students at BC who are running, and a community in my family and my friends at school and at home,” Mignosa said.
Like everything she does, Mignosa wasn’t afraid to jump in on this journey. While signing up for classes last year, she registered for PULSE on a whim, looking to fulfill her requirements. She didn’t realize that, in turn, the course would not only fulfill her requirements, but change her life. It gave her the gift of these seven women, who she is grateful for every day. It gave her the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon, when she wasn’t even looking for it. It brought her closer to her community, and while it has been a busy semester full of training, classes, and service, Mignosa said, “When I look back at my time at BC, there is no way I will regret being a part of this. It’s been such a special experience, and it’s like, ‘Okay, I’m so busy,’ but I’m so glad to be busy and be doing this.”
If you’re near Mile 19 and hear seven ladies cheering someone on, just know it’s Mignosa passing through. And what’s she going to do after she crosses that finish line? Rest up and go to bed early–she has nursing clinical for Adult Health One at 5:30 a.m. the next day.