Joanne McCabe Morris: 44-Year Runner

In 1977 I saw my brother out running and said to myself ‘I can do that’ and just started running. I just ran to get out and be active. I then heard about the Bonne Bell Mini Marathon and it sounded like fun, so I signed up and ran.

I continued to run because I wanted to be part of this all-women’s race for as long as it lasted. After 15 years, we were invited by Conventures to get together with other 15-year runners, so we knew we had to continue running.

Whether I’m having a bad day or just don’t feel like running, once I’m out running I feel so good and all is well. I solve all the world’s problems out on my run.

Running has given me the confidence to try other things—I have completed a biathlon and many triathlons, marathons all over the world, and mountain runs.

I now run many races with my daughter Meredith, and am proud that she will be running her 16th Boston 10K for Women.

Two years ago I was out running and tripped on an uneven sidewalk and broke my hip. While I was in the hospital, I told the nurses I had to get out of there because I had a big race coming up. When the surgeon walked into my room he said hey, I heard you are telling everyone you are running a race in 2 weeks, well, I am here to tell you that you are NOT running a race in 2 weeks.

So, I managed to find a wheelchair and showed up at the race!!

So this year I am back strong and ready to run my 43rd!

Francine Vidockler: 44-Year Runner

I decided to run the first Bonne Belle Mini Marathon, as it was known then, because I had just started running and I dearly appreciated the idea that it was for women. Women have long been excluded, either by law or just widespread social customs, and I knew this would uplift all women, whether they were runners or not. It seemed to me then, and now, an equalizing event—not an exclusionary one.

Each Columbus Day brings me joy as I see all the women and girls running with me. A number of family traditions have developed from this race—the participation of my daughter Eliza and my cousin Michele as well as a party after the event with family and friends.

The highlights of my running career have been the marathons: one Montreal, two Bostons, and two New Yorks. I still get great satisfaction from the fact that I, never a good athlete, ran five marathons. I loved running from day one! In one of my early urban runs, a police cruiser stopped to ask if I was OK, and not running from someone. I didn’t even have running shoes, or sneakers; I just put on my most flexible pair of regular shoes.

Running has given my confidence, endurance and good health. Maintaining running has also promoted a healthier diet, which, in turn, makes running easier. My running has also influenced my two daughters to be active. I wouldn’t miss this 10K for anything: I’ve made my daughter and cousin swear to push me in a wheelchair if necessary. This race is so unique: it’s my day, along with every other runner! That’s why I’m happy to be looking forward to number 43!

Lyn Licciardello: 44-Year Runner

In November of 1976, I had my second child. My husband, Tom, had started distance running during my pregnancy, and ran the Maryland Marathon in December, qualifying for the Boston Marathon. He loved it and urged me to try it, so I started trying to run in the early part of 1977. I thought it would help me to lose weight. It was difficult at first, since I was just trying to run until I had to stop. Tom and his friends ran the whole time they were out, never stopping to walk. So, that was what I was trying to do. I didn’t know that it would have been a good idea to take walking breaks, in order to gradually gain endurance. I’d bring my daughters, ages six months and three, to the races to support Tom. I noticed two things: 1. He was having a lot of fun with fellow runners at the events while I was handling child care; and 2. Among the many men running were a handful of women who looked like they were having fun! So, I decided to join in! Racing was a completely new experience for me. When I was in high school, girls were not allowed to run. I did not know any women in my town that ran; and running, for women, was widely frowned upon. So, once I got myself up to speed, all my running partners were men.

One of Tom’s buddies brought me a magazine article about Miki Gorman, a terrific female runner who had won Boston twice since women had been allowed to enter (1972). He told us that there was going to be a 10K race for just women in Boston in October. I was intrigued, since there were so few female runners. He and Tom brought me to that first Bonne Bell Mini Marathon for Women. I was shocked to find myself in a sea of women running! There were 2,300 of us! What an empowering experience!

The twentieth race in October of 1996 holds the fondest memories of this race for me. I was thrilled to be doing my twentieth consecutive, but even more thrilled that both my daughters, Amy Lillis and Crissy Lippman joined me that day! As I crossed the finish line, there they were, my cherished daughters. These were the charming babies I had waved to as Tom drove me off to my first big road race, the sweet girls who listened to my stories of glory after each race, the courageous athletes who raced on winged feet bringing home trophies and medals and stories of their own, the loving children who called from college to wish me luck. I thought to myself: “And now, they are here to share it all with me. And now, they know the joy. I am complete!”

I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without running. Stepping to the starting line introduced me to a whole new life, which I’ve shared with my husband. Obviously, improving fitness has allowed us to lead a much healthier life. It has given me the strength and the desire to push my limits. There are many activities I’ve done that I’d thought were beyond my capacity. I found out I was wrong. Through running, I became an obstacle course racer and triathlete, as well. Running led me to explore my limits, and to realize that which is difficult is doable with adequate preparation and determination. Beyond the physical benefits have also been emotional and social benefits. Our circle of friends grew exponentially. Our friends are runners, too, and have become our second family. Our running club, Merrimack Valley Striders, has been an integral part of our lives for more than forty years.

The Boston 10K for Women has been a touchstone for me for so many years! I will be so glad to see my friends, the other Legacy Runners. I am also looking forward to seeing Dusty Rhodes and her wonderful Conventures team who have showered us with kindness all these years. I can’t wait to be at the Boston Common on Columbus Day, once again, with my family and running friends! I am honored to be, in some small way, considered an inspiration to other women who are discovering the joy of running.

Janet Spriggs: 44-Year Runner

Boston 10K for Women was the first race for women only in New England. The year it began, a group of women from my running club decided to run in it. The main reason we did it was because it was just for women. But, it was also fun to see guys and kids cheering from the sidelines.

Some of my fondest memories of participating in this race have been seeing some of all ages running and feeling good about their accomplishment.

Running has made me more confident and has always been a way to control my weight and get stronger. Running also slows down the outside world; you are able to work through problems as you run the miles. All you need is a pair of shoes and shorts.

Once I realized that I had done the race for 15 years, I just kept coming back. Before I knew it, 20+ years had passed.

I am looking forward to seeing the other women who have done this race for 40+ years and getting to the finish line at this year’s race.

Kathy Sastavickas: 44-Year Runner

I was a heavy smoker until the spring of 1977. I decided to quit smoking and thought that running might help me minimize any weight gain. I would run at night when it was dark because I was embarrassed by how out of shape I was at that time. I remember I was living in an apartment complex and I could not make it to the dumpster without stopping to rest. This is what brought me to the starting line of the race in 1977.

After 5 or 6 years, I realized that I had created my own tradition of running in the Bonne Bell, now the Boston 10K for Women. I made a promise to myself that I would be at every race until I could no longer participate. I lived in southern California for 15 years, which did not deter me from the start line. I would plan work, vacations and anything else that came my way to leave the Columbus Day weekend free to race.

I ran with the flu one year and was at the back of the pack. My sister and her kids left before I finished because they were certain that they had missed me. That taught me humility. Another year, I petitioned the race committee when I broke my collarbone and could not run while it was healing. That was a funny experience for me. I got to the first intersection of the race and was unsure of which way to go! That was after about 20 years worth of races but it was the first time that I did not have thousands of women leading the way for me. 🙂

So far, highlights in my running career have been running in the early mornings in a foreign country. I saw fresh bread being delivered in plastic bags and hung on the doorknobs of customers. I was run off the road by a herd of goats. I saw the sun reflected on the river in Florence while a lone person skulled on the water. It was all so magical.

It can be very challenging to be an aging athlete. Running is the first sport that I have had to “quit” because of some physical limitations. I have learned invaluable lessons about myself along the way. In my early days, I set goals for every race such as: I will finish in under 52 minutes. As the years progressed, so did my goals: I will finish in under 55 minutes. I will finish in less than one hour. Now I am happy to be at the starting line and my goal is to finish without an injury! I learned that being a part of something special is more important than a number. I learned that I could be proud of an accomplishment even if it is less than what it used to be. I am learning to age gracefully and still be in the game. I celebrate my ability to be me however that translates, as I get older.

This October I will look forward to seeing the other women who have run with me for 43 years. I will look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with the thousands of women who will be with me this year. I will look forward to being a part of something special.

Shirley Jacobson: 44-Year Runner

I have always been an individual participant in the 43 year Bonne Belle, Tufts, and now Boston 10K for Women. I had just begun running with a few friends in my hometown of Wayland after “downsizing” to half time in my work as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, and when my children, now aged 57 and 55, were both needing (and wanting) less from Mom.

The highlight of my efforts through this 10K race has been the friendships with the other women, whom I usually see only once a year, but feel very close to, for our shared excitement and passion. We email now and can keep in touch more often, which is fun. Another highlight has always been seeing Ted Tyler, Mary’s husband, every year on the Mass Ave Bridge, taking pictures of us, then 15 or 16 women. My family used to come to watch but began to have other priorities to attend to on Columbus Day. However, my daughter-in-law, Laura, who now runs the Boston Marathon in April, and my granddaughter have now joined the group. My son, who is also a runner, has also joined in off and on throughout the years.

The first year I ran this 10K was the same year I had to have a hysterectomy for fibroid tumors, so, though I have not been into competitive sports, I needed to pick myself up by the “sneaker straps” to challenge myself. One year, I broke my wrist in a fall, which left me in a cast on race day. I considered not running, especially since that was the year it rained, but one of the other runners suggested a plastic bag to cover, so pride again and pushes from others did the trick

Over the years, I always get accolades from family and friends who know where to find me at noon on Columbus Day. I had one friend from my hometown with whom I had tea that morning at the Four Seasons every year, and she faithfully held my sweatshirt if it was warm. (It has only rained once in all these years, if I remember correctly!!)!

As a mental health professional, I have always believed that exercise was a necessary adjunct to good feelings. When I worked at Mass Mental Health Center in Boston, I was so impressed with the experience of how the care-giving efforts of Post Partum mothers in the special project of “The Baby on The Ward” enabled their recovery. It was a chance to exercise their labor of love. That transferred and has surely helped me get through life’s developmental challenges.

I am now a “walker” in the 10K Columbus Day event, to protect my aging hips, which, most definitely due to running, have never been a problem, nor have knees. Relative family genetics reveal the difference. However, after my first race, I visited my mother and “confessed” that I was running and completed the Bonne Belle. (She thought I was “doing too much”)—she who raised 6 children! She told me then that my father had run the Boston Marathon in 1908!! Wow! I have 4 other paternal family members who have done the same. I have always wanted to do Boston, but I get so much pleasure from Columbus Day, it lasts all year!!

Nancy Breen: 44-Year Runner

I had a bunch of kids by the time I was 25; I was continually running around with them, and the housework that went along with it. With all of that, I didn’t feel so hot. I figured I had to do something about it—to feel better. I started going to the Y up the street, at that started it. There was volleyball, swimming, and other activities some of the ladies and I would do to keep us fit. And then, a friend got me into a running program that they had started up, and at the end of the year, the coach told us about a five mile run in Weymouth at the fourth of July celebration that we could try. We went for it.

After that, we found out about the Bonne Bell, at 6.2 miles. “Would we want to do that?”

My sister and I, and a friend of ours decided to go for it. We signed up, and we finished it.

But it wasn’t easy. The shoes were awful. No one had running clothes. There was a woman running in 1977 with one-inch heels and nylons—actual nylon—and the whole time she was running she was asking around if anyone knew where a bathroom was. Every time the original runners get together we reminisce about those early years and sometimes wonder what ever happened to that woman!

I almost missed the race in 1981 or 1982 when I was in nursing school. We had class that Monday and if I were to run, I was going to have to skip class, which was, of course, a big no-no. I was really considering not running. A fellow nurse talked me into it, and I ended up skipping class. On Tuesday I was met, first thing, by questions from the instructor on where I had been. I told her I had just run a 6.2-mile race. I got a look as if to say “unacceptable, and don’t let it happen again.”

Well, I’m still running.

Running used to help keep me fit, and it still does. I run five months of the year, mostly in training for the 10K. When I get home on Columbus Day, the running shoes go away for seven months. But it helps keep me active—I either walk or run 2.5 miles every day, I keep the house in good condition, and I do Zumba gold and tai chi.

It’s great to stay fit, to stay active, and to be coming to this race every year.

Paula Metivier: 44-Year Runner

In 1977 I ran my first race ever and it was the Bonne Bell Mini Marathon. A friend of mine asked me to run it with her and, with hardly any training, we both finished. I remember having to run up 17 steps to get up to the Mass Ave bridge. I also remember passing a woman running in high heeled sandals at about the six mile mark. Phew, I did beat her, but not by much.

One of the fondest memories that I have of this race was starting the race with Joan Benoit Samuelson. Although she was actually jogging through the race that year, I quickly realized that even though I was running probably at my fastest race pace ever, I would not be running very much longer with Joan.

I still enjoy being in the race with all levels of runners and seeing them run by at various spots in the race.

Running certainly has helped me in other aspects of my life. I have met some lifelong friends through running and a few are still running this 10K with me. I look forward to running this race every Columbus Day weekend and plan my life schedule around it.

I love being one of the “pioneers” of this 10K race.

Mary Tyler: 44-Year Runner

Mary (right) with fellow 43-year runner Shirley Jacobson

I was never a fast runner, but by 1977 I had run in several races, sometimes as the only woman, or with only one or two others. Women had finally been allowed to run the Boston Marathon, but many people still thought running was unhealthy for women and should be discouraged. So, when I heard about the women’s race, I thought “I have to do this!” I hoped that knowing there would be many women running a race just for us, would encourage other women to join in.

There were several years that I walked more than ran because of injuries, but I never wanted to skip a race. In 2017, I postponed radiation treatments (benign brain tumor) for a week to make sure they started the day AFTER the 10K, not the week before, so I would be able to make the race.

There have been several highlights in my running career: my first and only first place in a race and running the Millennium Marathon in New Zealand First Dawn 2000, but certainly right up there is the 1977 Bonne Bell Mini Marathon. I had hoped to see maybe 100–200 women at the line, but there were so many—over 2,000!

The history and tradition brings me back each year, certainly the opportunity to see friends who have run all the races, and I love the race itself. It’s a celebration of women, not just a race. The course setup allows you to see thousands of women runners spread out on both sides of Cambridge’s Memorial Drive, with elite runners and mid-pack runners passing each other close by, going in opposite directions. Can’t wait!