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Seniors Amanda Gordon, Keith Bergh, and Jason Driscoll aren't afraid of an uphill battle
For many college students, senior year consists of blow-off classes, like Bowling 101, parties, and staying up all night in an effort to slow down time before graduation day. Seniors Amanda Gordon, Jason Driscoll, and Keith Bergh, on the other hand, are spending their final semester training to be among the 22,000 athletes racing toward the finish line along the most prestigious 26.2 miles in the world: the Boston Marathon.
"You're doing what? That's how many miles?" Gordon says of the most common responses they receive when people find out they will be competing in the April 20 race. "Most people are just a little bit shocked."
This will be the third marathon for Gordon, and her second Boston Marathon. Runners have to achieve a very competitive time in a prior marathon to qualify to run in the Boston Marathon, but in 2008, Gordon was invited to be a part of a charity team, the members of which aren't required to qualify. She jumped at the chance to race, not just to challenge herself physically, but to raise funds for Team Hoyt, a father-son team that aims to integrate the physically challenged into everyday life.
"The first time I heard about them was my sophomore year," says Gordon, who explains that Rick, the son, was born with cerebral palsy, and is unable to walk or talk. Together, they compete in marathons, triathlons, and other athletic endeavors, Dick pulling his son in a special boat as they swim, carrying him in a seat as they bike, and pushing him in a wheelchair as they run.
"My roommate's dad forwarded her a video of them, and we watched it. Tears were streaming down our faces. It's such an incredible father-son bond. Dick is 69 years old; I don't know how he does it. Seeing that really inspired me, so when I got the chance to run with them, I jumped at it."
This year, the team had another opening, so Gordon asked Driscoll, her cross-country teammate, if he was interested. "I've done two other marathons before this, and it was awesome, but this one is for a charity," says Driscoll of his decision to join Team Hoyt. "I think it's something that I will be able to look back and be proud of. "
This will be the first marathon for Bergh, who will also be running for a charitable cause, raising money to support pediatric cancer research at the Massachusetts General Hospital. "My family lives in Boston, just a few blocks away from where the finish line is for the race. My dad has run with Mass General Hospital team for the past few years, and he got me interested."
The night before the marathon, Bergh will be connected with a child who is currently undergoing cancer treatment at the hospital to see who all of his hard work will benefit. "I really wanted to run the Boston Marathon because I knew that training for it would push me to better myself as an athlete each and every day, along with making an impact for an organization through fund raising."
Gordon, Bergh and Driscoll, have been logging a collective 50-60 miles a week, running together when they can, but with each of them bearing an 18-credit load and countless other extracurricular activities (Bergh is in Alpha Tau Omega and he and Driscoll play on an intramural soccer team; Gordon is a member of Delta Gamma, University Ministry, and the Pepperdine Ambassadors Council) scheduling can be more of a challenge than the run itself.
"I have to think about when I can squeeze in a run, squeeze in studying for an exam, around work, around class, and around soccer practice," Driscoll says. "We update each other through text messages. We have to find our own motivations, but we're doing this together."
Bergh says he finds motivation through various sources, from hip-hop music to bible verses. "So much of training and running is mental. I wear a wristband everyday that has bible verse on it, Phil. 4:13: 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' Whenever I hit a wall, or don't feel like I can complete what I set out to accomplish, I look at this verse and use it to get me through."
On top of it all, they are trying to do their part to raise money for their charities. Collectively, they hope to raise $12,000. You can support them by donating online at www.firstgiving.com/amandagordon; www.firstgiving.com/keithbergh; and www.firstgiving.com/jasondriscoll.
In addition to being 113 years old, the Boston Marathon is known for its technically challenging course. "The course is slightly downhill for the first 16 miles and then in the 17th mile you start to climb, and that's called 'Heartbreak Hill'," Gordon says.
Fortunately, they have one of the nation's hilliest campuses to train on. "We run repeats up John Tyler Drive and long runs on PCH, which is all rolling hills. I think we'll be ready for it," Driscoll affirms.
The day of the race, April 20, is also "Patriot's Day," a state holiday in Massachusetts. "From what I understand, the streets are lined with people for all 26 miles and you don't even need music because there's so much excitement in the crowd to keep you going," Bergh says.
While the team of three may be missing out on some of the social events surrounding senior year, they are looking forward to experiencing the world's oldest annual marathon, and the energy surrounding the prestigious road-racing event. "People are wondering why we're doing a marathon our senior year, but I think it's a perfect capstone for my college career," Driscoll says.
"Running makes me happy," Gordon says. "And for me, it's the perfect metaphor for the Christian walk - it's like you're running alongside all of your fellow believers, running for the same cause. It's not a competitive endeavor. You're just trying to finish. I think that's something that resonates with everything I'm doing in my life right now."
By Audra Quinn