More than a Marathon by Jordan Biggar

I have known Jordan Biggar since she was in 8th grade.  She is now a junior at Wentworth Institute of Technology.  She stopped by my office on Wednesday to interview me for an assignment she was working on for a class.  She did a great job and told me I could share it with you.

More than a Marathon

Monday, April 14, 2012 will go into the history books of the Boston Marathon. It was the hottest marathon to date. The winning time was the second slowest time in the history of the marathon. Heart Break Hill was ten times worse with temperatures hitting above eighty six degree Fahrenheit and no shade to be found any where on the course. Runners not only had to battle the grueling course, but also the scorching temperatures.

Every runner who participated in the Boston Marathon became part of Boston Marathon history. Eric Dokken was one of these thousands of runners. The 116th Boston Marathon was Eric’s first Boston Marathon.

It was his 7th marathon at the age of 32. His personal best time is 3:05:56.  This marathon was not about beating his personal best. It was unique from all the other marathons Eric had participated in. He was running with a purpose, not just to finish, but also to finish the race for a cause.

Eric was running in memory of his sister Angie. Angie died on December 31, 2010. She had never taken a step in her entire life. She had cerebral palsy, but that did not stop her from impacting people’s lives. Angie was a fun loving, charismatic woman with an enormous smile that lit up a room. Soon after Angie’s death, Eric knew immediately that he was going to run for Angie in the Boston Marathon.

Eric not only ran in memory of Angie, but also for the non-profit organization, Kupenda. Kupenda is an organization that helps disabled children and their families in Kenya. Eric knew that the temporary pain that he felt running this marathon did not even match the pain that many of these children experience daily. He pushed through the heat and the challenges of the course to finish the Boston Marathon for a woman and many children who will never have a chance to walk, let alone run.

Question: Why do you run marathons?
Eric: I started running to stay in shape. I would run three miles and stop. I was not running with a purpose. One of my friends was training for a marathon at the time. I started to look over their training program and became interested in it. My uncle also ran marathons and was training for one. I became interested in the training plan because it would increase my mileage and add variety to my training. I stayed with the training plan and figured I might as well run a marathon. My uncle was running in a marathon in Minnesota. My first marathon I ran in was in 2004 in Minnesota.

Question: What is the best part of running a marathon?
Eric: (Laughing) The finish line. Seriously though, the crowds always amaze me. People are so enthusiastic and positive along the course. Everyone is cheering you on to the finish. I appreciate the crowd and the family and friends who come and support me at the marathons. It makes me feel like I am part of something much bigger than just a 26.2-mile jog.

Question: What has been your favorite marathon that you have run in and why?
Eric: All the marathons I have run in are my favorite for different reasons. If I had to pick two, I would pick the Whistle Stop Marathon in Wisconsin and the Chicago Marathon. The Whistle Stop Marathon, in Wisconsin, was my fourth marathon. The three previous marathons I had missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon. This marathon was the first time I qualified for the Boston Marathon. Overall, I was satisfied with the way I ran that race. I ran that marathon very well. Also, the course was really nice. It was an old railroad bed. The tracks had been pulled up and there was plenty of shade along the course. My other favorite marathon I have run in is the Chicago Marathon. I went to college in Chicago and know the city well.   The crowd is overwhelming in Chicago. There are thousands of people at every point along the course. It was very encouraging running that marathon.

Question: What did you experience running the Boston Marathon this year?
Eric: I knew I was going to have to run smart and slow down. The first mile shocked me with how steep the hill was going down. During miles seven and eight it was very hot and I had to slow way down. I started walking for a few seconds, but realized if I stop now I might not start again. At this point I was really questioning whether I would be able to finish this marathon. At mile 14 I saw my first fans. My fans got me through the marathon because I knew I had to keep looking for people at different points. I continued to see people every few miles along the course. One of my friends ran with me for seven miles. This kept me going at a steady pace. I was able to find my rhythm. I had never had so many people come and support me at a marathon. This ultimately pushed me through and helped me get across the finish line.

The marathon as a whole was extremely organized and had plenty of resources. Throughout the entire course, there were plenty of water stations, Gatorade stations, sprinkler tents, and running fire hydrants. The fans, volunteers, and event were amazing.

Question: What made the 2012 Boston Marathon special for you?
Eric: First it is Boston. There are few marathons in the world that you have to qualify for. This makes it extremely competitive and more significant.

This marathon was also special for me because I have never had so many people support me. I not only had so many fans show up to the Boston Marathon but I also had many people following me online.

Since I started running, I have wanted to run with a purpose. I have known other people who have raised money through running. When my sister died on New Years Eve of 2010 I immediately connected her memory to my running. My sister Angie was never able to walk. She inspired me with her love for life, love for people and her positive attitude. I wanted to express my appreciation for her through my running. I know she is running around in Heaven. I decided I would run in her memory when I ran the Boston Marathon.

Question: What is Kupenda?
Eric: Kupenda is a non-profit organization that helps disabled children and their families in Kenya. Kupenda means love in Swahili. Children with disabilities are not treated well in Kenya. Many are outcast and do not have proper equipment to function in society. Kupenda helps provide these children and their families with equipment and physical therapy. They also provide education about these disabilities to caretakers and parents of the children. This way, the families know what their children need in order to function.

Question: Why did you decide to raise money for Kupenda?
Eric: I thought this would be a great organization because many of these children are living a life similar to what Angie experienced. This organization has the same values I have for people with disabilities. I contacted the director, Cindy, to see if there were any children in the program who were like Angie. Cindy told me there was a girl named Dhahabu who has cerebral palsy. She loves life, people, and has an enormous smile, similar to Angie. I wrote Dhahabu’s name on my wrist and prayed for the little girl during the race. I knew the temporary pain I was experiencing right then was a daily occurrence for Dhahabu.

My original goal for fundraising was $100 per mile. So many donations came in that I increased it to $200 per mile. The grand total was $5,816. The amount of support I have received from fans has been overwhelming. This money will go into a general fund that will help continue the different programs at Kupenda, such as physical therapy, equipment, and educational programs.

Question: How do you recover from the Boston Marathon?
Eric: Immediately after the race, I went to Singing Beach, in Manchester, Massachusetts to walk into the water waist deep. This helped ice down my legs and bring down the swelling. I will take this full week off to rest my body. I take Advil and Tylenol every day and replace electrolytes. Next week, I will start running again and jump on my bike to get my legs going again.

Eric Dokken made the Boston Marathon more than a marathon. He ran with a purpose. Eric will touch many children and families lives through the money he raised for Kupenda. He may never meet these children, but he has impacted these children’s lives like Angie impacted his.

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