BOSTON – “I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” said Robert Edgren as he walked towards the starting line for the 2012 Boston Marathon, April 16, “Every now and then I would run a long distance, but to prepare for this you have to run every week.”
Edgren’s, a master sergeant with the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron, is running for his long time girlfriend Dominica.
“She had a severe stroke,” said Edgren, “She was on vacation in California. I wasn’t with her. I got the call and I went out as soon as I could.”
Dominica spent approximately two and a half months in the hospital.
“(I) lived in a motel down the street from the hospital until she was well enough to come home,” said Edgren, “Then she went to (a few) hospitals here for a few months.”
When Dominica had her stroke, Edgren took leave from his full time position with the Guard to be with her. Dominica’s condition was severe enough that she required full time care; so when his leave ran out, he resigned his full time position in order to take care of her. He did remain in the Guard and reported to the squadron for his monthly drills.
For the first seven months after Dominica came home from the hospital, Edgren was her only caregiver.
“She needs assistance with … all the basic necessities or activities of everyday life, the simple things,” said Edgren, “It does get stressful. (You) can’t leave to go grocery shopping or to do anything.”
As a way to relieve his stress, Edgren began to run.
“At night, when she went to bed,” said Edgren, “I would go out and run.”
Dominica knew of his running; while her condition was such that she needed assistance during the day, at night she could be left alone for short periods of time.
“At first, I could barley run a mile and a half,” said Edgren, “I … focused on that.”
Together the couple’s physical condition improved. Dominica can now walk up to 200 feet. Edgren recently participated in a triathlon.
Recently Dominica received a personal care attendant; this has allowed Edgren to return to the squadron full time as well as run longer distances.
Dominica has used Edgren’s running as motivation for herself.
“The therapy she goes thru is hard, hard on her physically,” said Edgren, “She’s said ‘If you can go out and run that far, then I’m going to walk this far’.”
When the idea/opportunity to run in this year’s Boston Marathon came up, Edgren said yes.
“She’s pretty excited,” said Edgren.
Before her stroke Dominica was a runner; Edgren was not. When there were times that Edgren was ‘less than motivated’, she had a way of refocusing him. ‘At least you can run’ she would tell him.
“It really kind of slaps you in the face,” reflected Edgren, “You go out and run, you get tired and sore … it really doesn’t hurt that much. We all complain about something trivial or simple and she’s sitting there and she’d love to be able to do it … and she can’t.”
The training needed for the marathon has taken a lot out of Edgren.
“I definitely felt like I’m doing this for both of us,” said Edgren, “I mean these long runs … I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
But he didn’t stop training and on Marathon Monday he crossed the starting line.
It wasn’t easy; but 5 hours, 51 minutes and 56 seconds later. Edgren crossed the finish line.
“I’m hurting,” said Edgren, “I didn’t know it would be this brutal.”
Near the end of the race, Edgren ran towards the crowd where a proud Dominica was waiting, tears of joy running down her face.
“It was emotional,” said Edgren, “Dominica stood up and gave me a hug over the rail. She said she was proud of me.”
Seeing Dominica gave Edgren a needed boost.
“I was able to run the rest of the way,” said Edgren, “I hadn’t been able to run much for the last 10 miles. I’d run a quarter of a mile then walk a quarter of a mile ... the hills were awful. I thought I’d trained on hills … those hills were killer.”
He collected his belongings and headed out to find Dominica.
“I did say I’d never do it again (run the Boston Marathon),” said Edgren, “But this course owes me one now.”