Madison Polkowitz / Gavel Media

Beyond Mile 21: Hailey Kobza and Melissa McGourty Are Better Together

Some best friends walk to class together. Others run marathons.

Hailey Kobza and Melissa McGourty are preparing to do exactly that when they run the Boston Marathon, side by side, in April. The duo will be running for The Gavin Foundation, a non-profit organization that both combats addiction and assists in recovery and rehabilitation.  

Kobza, MCAS '18, and her family have been connected with the foundation for years.

“My family has been donating for probably eight years, because we have substance abuse issues within our family,” she explained.  

She will be following in familiar footsteps on April 16, inspired to run for The Gavin Foundation after watching her own aunt do the same a few years back.

Kobza and McGourty only began their preparation in January, adopting a training plan they found online that consists of shorter runs during the week, and an increasingly long run every other Sunday. They then adapted the plan to fit their demanding class schedules.

Before the marathon, the longest run the pair will have completed will be two separate 20-mile runs. While the distance appears daunting, they find it's much easier with their best friend by their side.

“I don’t think I’d be able to do [the long runs] alone honestly,” McGourty, CSON '18, said.

She says that “deep conversation and music” help to keep the runs interesting and distract them from the long distances stretching out in front of them.

Their training hasn’t been without its difficulties. McGourty was a sprinter and short-distance track runner in high school, and making the adjustment to long-distance hasn't been completely smooth.

“I ran 11 miles without really training and that kind of put me out of commission for a while. I laid in my bed for a full day,” she laughed.

On the training path, Kobza and McGourty were surprised to see the outpouring of support from strangers along the route, waving or clapping for them as they pass by, knowing full well why they're running on these streets.

Unfortunately, not everyone they come into contact with on the road is so supportive. Kobza remembers one run where she had to tap the hood of a car and point to the walk signal to remind one particular driver of the rules of the road.

McGourty recalls narrowly avoiding being hit by a car crossing the road one day, only to look up and see the driver, who “looked exactly like [her] nursing dean.” It's one thing to run into a professor outside of school, but another entirely to have them almost run you over.

Despite the need for recovery days in bed and the dangers of the training path, Kobza and McGourty are thrilled to be running in the marathon. They can’t wait to pass the infamous Mile 21 and see their friends and family cheering as they stride past the Boston College campus.

“At that point, we’ll be running further than we ever have,” McGourty said. “Our friends will hype us up and give us that last bit of motivation that we need.”

Not only will the Boston College sighting be a mental and emotional boost on their run, but also, as Kobza noted, the school marks a welcome transition from an uphill terrain to a more downhill and flat path. The mile leading up to Boston College is aptly nicknamed “Heartbreak Hill” for its demoralizing slope. She was quick to state that Mile 21 “is going to be the best part of the entire marathon.”

When asked if they were sad to be missing out on what some students have labeled to be the most fun day of the year for Boston College students, McGourty replied “not even a little bit.” 

"The accomplishment outweighs the festivities,” explained Kobza.

More specifically, “it outweighs being hungover at 5 p.m. on a Monday.”

Both described how completing the marathon will be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. Kobza says that she’ll recognize the feat as achieving an incredible individual goal, and it will serve as a justification for the time and hard work that they put in. McGourty echoes that sentiment and adds that running everyday brings her back to her high school track days that she has come to miss.

While the personal goal of completing the marathon is important to them both, the ability to achieve this great feat together makes the moment all the more special. Kobza and McGourty look forward to April 16, when they can share their great accomplishment of completing their first marathon.

Visit the pair's Crowdrise site to donate and help Hailey Kobza and Melissa McGourty reach their fundraising goal.  

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Tommy O'Brien