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May 04. 2013 3:26AM

Vin Sylvia: Marathoner is on a mission


 

Heidi Westover had every reason to be miserable.

She'd spent the previous 10 months training with one goal in mind, taken a year's sabbatical from her job as a fifth-grade teacher at North Charlestown Community School, lived in Colorado for a nine weeks to work out at altitude - all to get ready for Boston, where a top-three finish among American women would be within reach.

And now here she was back in New Hampshire, at her doctor's office, awaiting treatment for the sinus infection and sore throat she'd been fighting more than a week, still feeling the throb of the re-strained hamstring that had caused her to drop out of the Boston Marathon at Mile 11.

That's when she saw the images from Copley Square on the waiting-room television.

"I was so upset," Westover said last week. "When I saw what was taking place on the TV screen, all of a sudden it struck me: I hadn't accounted for everybody."

A van had taken her from a medical tent to her Boston hotel, where she re-united with her husband, Rob, and made sure there were no family and friends still awaiting her at the finish. They were all on their way back to New Hampshire, Rob assured her.

Everyone, Westover now thought, but her mother-in-law, Cindy, who typically spends Patriots Day with a sister in Massachusetts.

People in the doctor's office, also shocked by what they saw on the TV screen, were asking Westover, "Were you there?" but all she could say was, "I have to make a phone call."

Cindy, it turned out, was fine, having met up in Boston with another friend, who gave her a ride home to Walpole.

"I felt relief after that," Westover said. "But then the magnitude of what happened began to set in."

Three dead. Countless others injured, many critically.

What is a lost race compared to a lost life? What is a strained hamstring compared to a severed leg? Never had the distinction between disappointment and disaster been so stark.

"I can't imagine what those people have gone through," Westover said of Marathon bombing victims. "I feel for them and for their families. It's such a terrible, terrible thing. The parents who've lost a child, the people who were injured facing months and months of rehabilitation ...

"All of a sudden, everything else isn't such a big deal. So a race didn't happen the way you wanted it to; life goes on. All the feelings I had about my own experience that day - they just washed away."

The feelings for those most affected by the tragedy in Boston, however, remain.

So when her father-in-law, Dave Westover, Cindy's husband, told Heidi he wanted to put together a 5K race to benefit the victims of the Marathon bombings, she told him, "Great idea," and the next day joined him in scouting out a route for the race.

What they came up with was an out-and-back course on a former rail bed behind the Walpole Scoop Shop, the popular ice cream emporium Dave runs. The race is set for this coming Saturday at 11 a.m., after a 1-mile fun walk at 10:30. Entry fee is at the participant's discretion, checks to be made payable to One Fund Boston. All who contribute get a free scoop of Dave's renowned ice cream.

It will be a grassroots, old-school affair. Registration is on-site the morning of the race. Results will be manually timed.

"We thought about pre-registration, and we talked with a timing service, but we're trying to keep overhead low," Dave, a former longtime track and field coach at Fall Mountain Middle School in Langdon, said. "We want as much money as possible to go to the One Fund."

Still nursing her injured hamstring, Heidi doesn't know if she'll run the race or simply work it as a member of its support staff.

She does expect to be back in Burlington, Vt., on Memorial Day weekend for the Vermont City Marathon, a race she's already won five times. And, yes, she does plan to run Boston again next year.

"I'm more determined than ever to run Boston again," said Westover, whose personal record on the fabled course is the 2-hour 39-minute 14-second finish she registered in 2010, about four minutes off her overall marathon PR. "I'm also aware there's a much bigger picture out there.

"It's great seeing so many people determined to run Boston next year. It's great seeing so many people care about the Boston Marathon. But there a lot of people who can't run because of what happened this year. I want to finish Boston for those people."

In the meantime, she'll do what she can at the 5K for One Fund Boston behind her in laws' ice cream shop next weekend. That's for those people, too.

Vin Sylvia is a New Hampshire Union Leader deputy managing editor. Email him at vsylvia@unionleader.com. Follow him on Twitter @vinsylvia.


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