Meet Boston Marathon Runner Mariel Johnson

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

Mariel Johnson likes to live by one simple phrase that she believes applies to everything, “great things happen when you step out of your comfort zone.”

Mariel did just that when she picked up and moved to Boston two short years ago after receiving a job offer from Brown Brothers Harriman. “Growing up a Jersey girl, it was difficult to admit that I immediately felt at home in a new city so far from my family and friends. Boston bestowed such rich history, pride, and intrinsic beauty and I wanted to experience it all.”

The move to Boston also helped spark her love for running competitively. “Thanks to my blooming curiosity, I started going on long runs and drifting into different Boston neighborhoods. Running (and sometimes getting lost) was my way of exploring the city – from Cambridge to Southie to Fenway, I appreciated each neighborhoods’ unique character”

Not only did this phrase help her to move to a new city, but it’s also the reason she will be lining up with thousands of other charity runners at the starting line of the Boston Marathon. “This simple phrase relates to the amount of courage it takes the Special Olympics Massachusetts athletes to compete their best and the courage it took me to sign up for my first marathon”

We are excited to watch Mariel step out of her comfort zone to compete and to help Special Olympic athletes do the same!

Support Mariel in her Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

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Meet Boston Marathon Runner Lori Potocki

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

Located in Newton, MA between mile 20 and 21, is the infamous Heartbreak Hill. Every runner keeps this climb in mind as they train diligently for the run. It’s the final crest they face as they head into the last 5.2 miles of their grueling journey, and it’s the hardest challenge they overcome before their feet finally cross the finish line.

Most runners practice for Heartbreak Hill by racing up similar sized hills, but Lori Potocki is not most runners…

“There are no hills in Houston… so I’ve been running up garage ramps, overpasses, and the like. I hope I’ll be ready for Heartbreak Hill!”

Although the hill may be heartbreaking, and the 26.2 miles an exhausting test of human endurance, it is nothing compared to what Lori has already achieved. She has already completed two marathons in 2016 and 2017, and achieved 1st place in her age group for the Texas Oilman 70.3 in 2014.

After the Boston Marathon, Lori has her sights set on completing a full Ironman, that’s 140.6 miles. With unparalleled determination, we have no doubt that Lori will finish the Boston Marathon and her future endeavors with flying colors!

 

Support Lori in her Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

 

 

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Bethany Bergeron

Bethany is from Natick, MA and grew up watching the Boston Marathon from the intersection of 135 and Speen Street. Year after year, she watched thousands of runners as they took on the marathon, and knew someday she would too.

Q: Do you have any connection to the Boston Marathon?  I grew up watching the Marathon in Natick. It is a positive childhood memory. I have been a runner since high school and I love it. I have participated in half marathons and other races. My sisters have both run Boston and I am excited to have the opportunity to do so this year!

Bethany has been a kindergarten teacher for the past 12 years, and currently works at Upham Elementary School in Wellesley, MA. Through teaching, she has been able to work with children with intellectual disabilities and has “always felt it was important to help them feel successful and welcome in the classroom.” For this reason, Bethany picked Special Olympics as her charity of choice for the Boston Marathon.

Q: What does Special Olympics mean to you? I love the message of Special Olympics. The organization believes in children and so do I. We have to give everyone a fair chance to feel successful and reach for their dreams. Special Olympics provides so many children and adults these wonderful opportunities.

On top of helping over 12,000 Special Olympic Massachusetts athletes, Bethany gets to complete a goal that she set as a child.

Q: What’s the craziest thing on your bucket list? A big thing on my bucket list is running the Boston Marathon and now I am preparing for it! Yay!

Special Olympics Massachusetts is excited to watch you check off the craziest thing on your bucket list! Best of luck on race day.

Support Bethany Bergeron in her Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Eric Spindt

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

“Watch me!” Two little words uttered by Eric Spindt years ago have taken on a new meaning in the form of 6, going on 7, completed marathons. That’s right, Eric has run 157.2 miles of grueling race course, each step filled with sweat and tears, blisters and bruises and most importantly, perseverance Spinde2and triumph. Eric always had the drive in him, all it took was one of his friends joking he couldn’t run a marathon. His response? “Watch me.”

Eric was first introduced to Special Olympics when his sister was adopted from Korea at 13 months and his family found out she had an intellectual disability. “Special Olympics has been an important part of my life since my sister began participating as an athlete in 1998. The organization has enriched the lives of my entire family and I am so proud to give my time, money and training hours to support such a wonderful organization.”

As a board member and a brother, Eric has been to the world games in Ireland and China and experienced first hand, the importance of Special Olympics in the lives of many like his sister.

We are so proud of Eric and can’t wait to see his hard work and dedication culminate in the ultimate Boston Marathon triumph and for his support of Special Olympics Massachusetts!

Support Eric Spindt in his Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Hank Hudepohl

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

It takes, on average, 4:19:27 for a male runner to cross a marathon finish line. Hank Hudepohl, however, has left that time in the dust, running the Baystate Marathon in just 3 hudepohlhours and 30 minutes. It would take the average man 49 minutes just to catch with him! But Hank is anything but average, he is extraordinary.

This year Hank is dedicating his Boston Marathon journey to his brothers, who have lived lives just as extraordinary as his because of organizations like Special Olympics. “I’ve been involved with Special Olympics and with causes that aim to improve the lives of special needs adults for many years. My brothers have been able to live their lives with dignity, with respect, and with accomplishment through the help of generous organizations like Special Olympics and through their own courage and determination. It is an inspiration to bear witness to their spirit.”

Join us in celebrating as Hank runs for a personal best in support of his amazing brothers and Special Olympics Massachusetts.

Support Hank Hudepohl’s Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Kiely Turgeon

“Special Olympics brings sports to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to play. But it’s much deeper than that. Their initiatives promote understanding, acceptance user_photo-584b1439dda39
and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates people’s diverse gifts. They have helped my brother David, and other individuals, to recognize their individual strengths and to build a healthy self-esteem and sense of self-worth. As a sister, this is all I want for my brother. So I feel deeply connected to the mission of Special Olympics.”

This is why Kiely Turgeon has chosen to run the 2017 Boston Marathon for Special Olympics Massachusetts. For Kiely and her family sports has always been a part of their lives. Growing up, her younger brother David, who has autism, was not given the same opportunities she had of playing sports through the school community. That’s why Special Olympics has been so important to her and her family. “Special Olympics programs give hope for those who face adversity and challenges in situations most of us will never experience.” It is a cause that is near and dear to her heart.

Kiely, who now lives in New York City, was raised in Scituate, Massachusetts. Like many of our other runners she grew up watching the Boston Marathon and always wanted to be a part of it. “I have fond memories of watching from Comm Ave alongside my Kiely and brothercousins, uncles and aunts and then celebrating post-race at my Uncle and Aunt’s house, located near the finish line.” With two half-marathons under her belt Kiely feels now is her time to run.

Working full-time and going to graduate school part-time has posed some challenges to her training. “It has been challenging for me to squeeze in training while maintaining everything else.” Waking at 4:00am some mornings in the freezing cold to do training runs has sometimes pushed her to her limits. “Sometimes I am at the very edge of my physical ability where my legs feel like they’re about to fall off. But I feel a passion for the bigger picture. It’s the kind of work that I’m willing to go through because I love the underlying cause of promoting the Special Olympics mission.”

We are so honored that Kiely has chosen to support Special Olympics Massachusetts in her first marathon effort. We’re inspired by her dedication and wish her the best of luck when she takes to the roads from Hopkinton to Boston on April 17th.

Support Kiely Turgeon in her Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

Meet Boston Marathon Runner George Tzortzis

Growing up George Tzortzis watched the Boston Marathon every year. That tradition has continued through his adult years watching with his sister (until she moved out of the country) and friends. This year his family and friends will be cheering for him on the route as he takes on his first marathon, running Boston for Special Olympics Massachusetts.

George has beeuser_photo587d7804dec9en running distance since high school but has only raced a handful of times in shorter distances runs. For him, “running gives me time to let loose, sometimes listen to new tunes, sometimes listen to my surroundings, but most of all time to relax.” Although he has never run a marathon before George is “super excited to be a part of a great team. The calls with tips and training plans are very helpful. Hopefully with the other runners past experiences, I will be able to ease into my first marathon as best as anyone possible could..” His training primarily involves “lots of running, split by stretching and days of rest.” What motivates him to keep up with his training is the thought of running 26.2 miles and wanting to be prepared to finish.

Why for Special Olympics? George first became involved when his neighbor asked him to join their Jolly Jaunt race team. The Special Olympics Jolly Jaunt is a fundraiser road race that takes place in December every year. When I joined “everyone was incredibly friendly from the start and exuded immense amounts of positive energy.” To him Special Olympics is about “the athletes getting together and breaking barriers and misconceptions.”

With the Special Olympics athletes as an example, breaking a personal barrier is what George wants to achieve by running his first marathon. His motto from actor James Dean, “Dream as if you will live forever. Live as if you will die today,” as well his inspiration from the athletes is what will keep George pushing toward that finish line on April 17. Best of luck to George Tzortzis as he works toward completing his first Boston Marathon!

Support George Tzortzis in his Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!