What drives someone to run ten consecutive Boston Marathons? Today on the blog our Operations & Logistic Analyst, Jess Popik, is sharing with us where her determination to run the marathon came from and what keeps her running each year. Jess is a MA local, born and raised in Westminister. Keep reading below for some inspiration from a member of the Topo family!
It was Patriots’ Day, 1996. I was standing on Comm Ave at the corner of Hereford. I remember people cheering and people running by. I remember the motorcycles leading the elites with one more turn to the finish line of the 100th Boston Marathon. I remember knowing that I was going to do that someday.
For those not familiar with Boston or the Marathon, this race is held on Patriots’ Day – now the third Monday in April – the day that memorializes the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the start of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1776. Most of the Boston Marathon route is a straight course from Hopkinton, Massachusetts to Boston, with four turns along the way. The two most significant turns are the last two – Right on Hereford (from Commonwealth Avenue) and Left on Boylston (Street) about a quarter mile from the finish.
My father was a runner my entire childhood. It was my experience watching my dad run the Boston Marathon in 1996 and looking up to him that made me want to be a runner. At 10 years old, I had no idea how long a marathon was, the training involved, or the experience of running 26.2 miles. From that April, I joined the middle school cross country and track teams. When I got to high school, the 3-mile cross country course was way too long for me and opted to stick with track as a sprinter. But as a high school sprinter, there were a lot of heats, and the blocks were not my friend. So, I decided to run the mile. I was never fast, never placed. Through the college years and after graduation, I continued running and pushing myself to longer distances. Every third Monday in April, I watched the coverage of the Boston Marathon on television and kept that same thought in my head. The opportunity to run Boston came late December in 2011. One of my friends knew of a charity spot that had just opened for Boston 2012 and I jumped at the chance to live this dream. Race day was 93 degrees. When I made those final two turns, there was not enough liquid in my body to physically show the amount of emotion I had in my heart. I finished in 5 hours in 15 minutes with more determination to go back the following year.
The events of 2013 changed my running life. I knew I would not go back to run the Boston Marathon without a goal, and I needed to return to heal myself, finish the race I was not able to finish. I hired a coach and set the goal to qualify for Boston. I have been grateful to qualify for each Boston Marathon since 2015, however, I’m still chasing that unicorn – the perfect race on one of the most prestigious courses in the sport.
I think it is amazing to see the roads we run every day transform with a completely different energy, each year with its own personality. 2014 brought unprecedented crowds, a united pride for our city and our race. 2018 in a Nor’easter, seeing the first American woman win in thirty-three years. 2021, a celebration of the return of in-person races.
This year, I am looking forward to soaking in all that energy, enjoying each mile through every part of the seven cities and towns along the course – something I have not taken the opportunity to do in several years. I am looking forward to seeing my Topo team cheering just past the 10K mark in Framingham. Each step in my Topos will remind me of the support I have received to get to this point in my running career.
I know I’m biased growing up in Massachusetts, but the Boston Marathon is unlike any other marathon in the world. Where else do you get to run in the literal footsteps of 126 years of history?
Jess runs the marathon in support of Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Trauma Innovation Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. To keep up with Jess, follow @jpop3 on Instagram. The Topo team will be cheering Jess on at corner of Bishop and Waverly on Monday and we’re so excited!