Alumna motivated to return to Boston Marathon
Baldwin City, Kan. — On the verge of completing her first Boston Marathon last year, lifelong Baldwin City resident and Baker University graduate Sarah (Becker) Harris was a half mile away from the finish line before barricades prevented her and other runners from continuing Boston's cherished race after two bombs exploded along Boylston Street.
Determined to return to Boston next month with other runners, the resilient Harris was among the 5,633 official entrants who did not finish last year after the race was stopped. She and the other runners have been invited to participate in the 2014 Boston Marathon, scheduled for April 21.
"I went through a roller coaster of emotion," said Harris, who was joined last year in Boston by her husband, Kit, and oldest son, Cael. "I was near the 26th mile marker thinking, 'I'm going to finish.' Then you stop, learn what had happened and you just want to make sure your family is OK and safe rather than finish."
Harris, a 1996 Baker graduate and first-grade teacher at Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center, had experienced knee pain before last year's race and experienced leg cramping late in the marathon.
"When the race stopped, I was in a lot of pain," Harris said. "Then you think, 'Why did they stop the Boston Marathon?' We saw a lot of emergency vehicles."
Within a couple of minutes, Harris learned about the bombings from other runners who had been communicating via their cell phones.
"I had no clue where Kit was," Harris said. "I last saw him at mile 22 and he told me he would see me at the finish line, and I started to have panicky thoughts."
The Harrises were relieved to finally be reunited 90 minutes after the race stopped. After the Harrises returned to Baldwin, Sarah's colleagues surprised her by joining her for a half-mile run at the school to make up for the last portion of the marathon. To repay all the acts of kindness the family received, Sarah and Kit organized a 5-kilometer fundraiser at the Baldwin City Golf Course. It benefited One Fund Boston, a relief fund for victims and first responders of the Boston Marathon bombings.
During the event, Kit surprised his wife with a Boston Marathon medal finishers medal from the Boston Athletic Association. His friend who lived in Boston collected the medal shortly after the race and had it shipped to Baldwin.
"I was completely surprised," she said. "Having the medal placed around my neck meant a lot to me. I knew I had to return to Boston and finish."
Sarah, 40, has been running since her late 20s and entered her first marathon in 2007 in Lincoln, Neb. She started to run to lose weight after the birth of her second child and ran briefly while she was pregnant with her third child, Malin.
"Running is a passion now," she said proudly.
Next month on the trip to Boston, Sarah will be joined by Kit, a 1996 Baker graduate, her father-in-law, Dan Harris, a former athletic director at Baker, and mother-in-law, Peggy Harris, vice president and dean of the School of Education, and her second son, Ty. They plan to stay with former Baker women's basketball coach Susan Decker, who lives in the Boston area as the senior women's administrator at Regis College.
"Training is going well so far for this year's marathon," she said. "I'm healthy and doing more cross training. I am motivated to run."