From mom to marathoner; Quesenberry vows to return to Boston
by Amy Cherry
On Monday at 11 a.m., Molly Quesenberry, 42, of St. Marys will take to the starting line of the Boston Marathon fulfilling a vow she made to return to the race.
"I feel like it's about going out there and supporting Boston, the victims, other runners and doing it for that reason and not really for myself. If you stay away and don't go back then you're giving in and that's what the people who did it want," Quesenberry said.
One year ago Quesenberry and her family experienced the terror of the bombings that killed three and injured nearly 260 spectators.
The bombs were detonated at 2:49 p.m., just shortly after Quesenberry was re-united with her family following the race. They were situated only a block and a half from the crime scene. The terrifying events of that day are a memory forever etched in the minds of the Quesenberry family.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to Boston and enjoying it more, being able to have the full marathon experience because that was cut short last year. After what happened last year we left earlier than when we had intended to," she noted.
This year Quesenberry will be one of 36,000 marathon runners, a significant increase from last year's 28,000. She explained the increase is due to last year's non-finishers being automatically qualified if they were past the halfway point when the explosion occurred. The race was also opened to additional runners due to increased interest. They must still meet the qualifying time for their gender and age group.
Quesenberry's finish time of 3:39 last year automatically qualified her for the 2014 Boston Marathon.
She will be wearing race number 20,204 and also plans to represent her alma mater by sporting some sort of Penn State gear.
In preparing for Boston, Quesenberry completed the Indiana First Bank Veterans Marathon in November. She described the race as grueling as runners had to face rain, snow, sleet and 40 mph wind gusts.
Quesenberry was joined by her husband Matt and her sister Lorie Surra who split the event's half-marathon. The event marked Surra's first racing experience.
The trio chose the race in honor of Surra's son, Alex Wendel who was serving in the military in Afghanistan at the time.
"We wanted to do something for him so we did it in honor of him," Quesenberry said.
This year's trip to the marathon marks two special events, an early celebration of Molly and her husband Matt's 20th wedding anniversary and the opportunity to meet up with the family's newfound friend from last year's marathon.
Quesenberry and her family met Boston native Bud Dasey during a church service they attended at the Our Lady of the Airways chapel, located near their airport hotel. Although Quesenberry had not originally planned to attend Mass, her mother, a devout Catholic, encouraged her to do so.
Dasey was also in attendance and welcomed the family to Boston wishing Quesenberry luck in the marathon. He has been attending the marathon since age four and promised to watch for her.
Quesenberry speaks highly of Dasey, an 89-year-old World War II veteran who fought on D-Day and currently works two jobs. He managed to contact the family at home to ensure they were safe after the bombings.
"It ended up being one of the best experiences in Boston," Quesenberry said about meeting Dasey.
Since meeting, Dasey calls the family three times a month when they catch up with each another. He has also sent their oldest son Matthew information on World War II as he is a history buff and their eldest daughter Madison a card for her confirmation.
The Quesenberrys are staying in Dasey's hometown of Winthrop, a quaint oceanside town about 15 minutes from Boston, and plan to visit with him everyday.
"I am looking forward to spending that time with him because he's become a really good friend of ours," Quesenberry said.
Saturday morning Dasey has made plans to take the couple to the Union Oyster House in Boston where has reserved special seating in JFK's former booth.
As a wife, mother of three and full-time nurse, Quesenberry finds time to lace up her running shoes five times a week averaging 35 to 50 miles a week during marathon training.
"I don't think I'm a fast runner, but I have a lot of endurance so that's why I got into marathons because for some reason I can keep going," she explained.
Quesenberry became interested in running 11 years ago after having her third child in an effort to get back into shape. She added she was not very athletic as a child and was rather uncoordinated.
"It was more for my mental well-being I think than it is for my physical well-being," Quesenberry said.
Shortly after she started running Quesenberry's husband and father encouraged her to run in the Lee Foster Memorial 5K event. Although hesitant she decided to participate and finished first in her age group.
"That's what really got me hooked," she stated.
Over the years she has often consulted Jim Wortman, an established runner and coach, for advice on various aspects of the sport. Quesenberry recollected calling him in a panic last year with a last minute racing question while in Boston. She said he calmed her down and provided words of encouragement.
"Runners share a unique and common bond and understand one another," Quesenberry said. "It's a lot about the people that you meet along the way."
While running in a Titusville marathon in 2013, Quesenberry met Rob McElroy of Fort Worth, Texas who became her own personal coach during the race.
"He was very inspirational. He was my own support system," Quesenberry said.
She explained that he volunteered to run with her, as he had already qualified for Boston. Throughout the race the pair talked about their families and more.
"At mile 18 he made me promise that we were not going to let anyone pass us, we were only going to pass other people," she said.
Quesenberry finished as the top female, qualifying her for her first Boston Marathon.
"It was Matt and my family that got me there, but Rob absolutely got me through that marathon and I don't think I could have done that well without him," she emphasized.
"I always thought that if I did the Boston Marathon once in my life then that would be it and I would be satisfied, but after what happened I told my family I have to go back and that I need to go back at least one more time."
Quesenberry said Boston will be her last marathon for 2014 although she hopes to try to participate in other marathons next year.
Her youngest daughter Megan has expressed interest in running and hopes to run with her mom in the Boston Marathon one day.