One of the biggest, most prestigious races in the world took place earlier this month, and racers from both Kelowna and Vernon travelled to the east coast to take part.
On April 17, thousands of people got together to partake in the 127th Boston Marathon, arguably the biggest day of the year in Massachusetts. This year, the 42-kilometre run hosted nearly 30,000 racers.
For Phoebe Cseresnyes and Caleb Maupin, they have always loved running but never envisioned themselves taking part in a marathon.
“Initially I don’t think I had my sight set on a marathon,” said Cseresnyes. “I’ve always enjoyed distance running, trail running especially, but my buddy Caleb and I just decided to have a go at it.”
Both Cseresnyes and Maupin run with the November Project, a social group in Kelowna who get together to run a couple times a week.
Back in August 2021, Cseresnyes, Maupin, and another member of the group, Diane Broduer, all decided to make the Boston Marathon a goal. Cseresnyes said Broduer was one of her inspirations to run the marathon as she has run 100 mile races in the past.
“We thought it would be a great opportunity to travel,” said Cseresnyes. “I don’t truly remember how it happened, I think we fell into setting some actual goals with running and we were just diving into the trail running scene and longer distances and seeing how far we could push it. The first thing to check off was ‘why don’t we see if we can actually run a marathon on pavement first?’”
For Chelsey Giffin and her partner, Tristan Hoekstra from Vernon, partaking in the race was a long time coming. Giffin qualified for the 2020 marathon but the race was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said her work colleagues were cheering her on with enthusiasm.
With it all being their first time racing in the marathon, they all couldn’t believe what the experience was like.
“It was truly amazing, there’s nothing else quite like it,” said Cseresnyes. “When we showed up, I don’t think we knew what we were in for. The atmosphere was loud and indescribable really. People seemed to be behind one another and there to support one another. I think it went by a little quick but that’s what running is, you’re always moving forward.”
On top of a good race, Maupin’s goal was to take the whole experience in at the same time.
“I’m pretty drained mentally and emotionally because it was such a high being there,” said Maupin. “Everything people that have done before say is absolutely true. The crowd, the City of Boston, all the suburbs leading up to the finish line, they really came out at every single kilometre that we pass, it felt like they’re celebrating you personally.
Both Cseresnyes and Maupin crossed the finish line at the same time, at just over three hours and 14 minutes while Giffin beat her personal record by nine minutes, clocking in at three hours and eight minutes.
“I was really happy with that time,” Giffin said. “It was really amazing and the whole city of Boston really rallies around the race and comes out to support the runners, and just the energy was fantastic.”
Cseresnyes added that seeing other runners wearing quarter century bibs, meaning they were taking part in their 25th Boston Marathon, was special and motivating.
On top of the amazing time and opportunity they had, both Phoebe and Maupin wanted to point out to Black Press Media the racism they also saw, which made news nationally on race day.
“The group of individuals who came out to support an already unrepresented minority in the race was treated very, very unfairly,” said Maupin. “The city showed up, I’m not hating on the city at all because they were fantastic but it was definitely a double standard in terms of what people of colour were not allowed to do compared to other people.”
Maupin went on to explain what happened at the halfway mark of the race with a group called the Pioneer Run Club.
“At mile 21, there was a strictly Black group (that) came out to support Black runners and I can tell you, there was no impediment stopping us from racing. They were behind the barriers, there was nothing happening that would have made you think, regardless of what race they were, ‘hey this shouldn’t be happening’,” said Maupin. “I can tell you there were multiple opportunities where white people were handing out beer on the course, there folks were on the race path where you had to adjust your stride and trajectory and police were nowhere near that so that was pretty disheartening to see folks that were respecting the rules to be treated the way they were.”
‘There was a lot of outrage and uproar about how the Boston Police showed up and policed them unjustly,” said Phoebe. “Of all the thousands and thousands and thousands of people who came out to cheer and support, it was people of colour who were given a really unfair time out there. For the running community to band together and to acknowledge the blatant racism that still exists, especially in the athletic world, I think speaks to how athletics needs to get behind the political injustices that still exist, that there’s still work to be done for people to grow and enjoy the sport.”
On top of the emotion of what happened at mile 21, Giffin also explained how emotional this race was since it was the 10th anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings.
“It was an emotional day in Boston and the whole city was out, all the way from the start to the finish.” said Giffin. “It really propels you along, it makes it so motivating to get to the finish line.”
When asked if they’ll ever take part in the event again, Maupin said “Absolutely, no question” and Phoebe said she would love to do it again but is unsure about next year - it’s “pencilled in” she said.
The other two runners who took part in the Boston Marathon were Lydia Copland and Samuel Isaak. Giffin says she knows Isaak through a local running group, the Okanagan Running Club.