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(Updated 3 p.m., April 26)
Local runner conquers the elements to complete Boston Marathon

By Fred Sherwin
The Orléans Star

Vanessa De Hoog kisses her medal after completing the Boston Marathon on April 16. PHOTO PROVIDED

The Boston Marathon is widely regarded in the running world as one of the most grueling marathons in the world largely because of the course, which is extremely hilly.

Challenging at the best of times, it is an absolutely monster when the weather turns bad, as it did this year.

The weather conditions for this year’s marathon were among the worst in the races 122-year history. When the race started, the temperature was one degree celcius and the rain was coming down in sheets. To make matters even worse, the runners had to face an almost constant head wind with gusts up to 40 km/hr.

Not exactly ideal conditions to run only your second marathon, but those were the conditions Orléans native and Gloucdester High School alum Vanessa De Hoog faced when she set out on the 42km course through the suburbs of Beantown.

“It was the worst conditions I have ever run in, not just because it was cold and you were constantly wet, but because when I ran cross-country it was only 20 minutes over a 5K course. This was four hours long into a constant head wind with the rain coming in horizontal for 42 kilometres,” says De Hoog. But somehow she managed to make her way through it from start to finish and couldn’t be more proud of herself.

“It was an accumulation of me proving to myself how strong of a person I have become despite everything I have been through as a person.”

De Hoog’s Boston Marathon exper-ience started with her getting up at 5:30 in the morning and figuring out the multiple layers of clothing she would need to wear to stay warm and dry.

She then hired an Uber with some other runners to take them to the finish line where they could pick up their numbers and hopped on a shuttle bus to take them to the start in Hopkinton which is a suburb west of Boston.

It was on the way to the start that the fun began.

“Our driver got lost. He had no idea where he was going. Actually a policeman pulled him over and had to give him directions. It was nuts,” says De Hoog.

De Hoog waves at a Boston Marathon photographer during a lighter moment in this year's Boston Marathon. PHOTO PROVIDED

After they checked in at the start area, she and most of the other 32,500 participants had to wait in the middle of a field for their appointed start time. The Boston Marathon is run in waves depending on your qualification time.

By the time De Hoog’s group was called to the start line, they had been waiting over an hour.

“It wasn’t even a field it was a mud bowl. I had bags over my shoes trying to keep them dry and Zip Lock bags over my gloves. The wind was blowing like crazy and your hands are frozen trying to pin your bib on. By that time you just wanted to start the race.”

As De Hoog walked to start line she started laughing.

“I just thought to myself that we’re all a bunch of crazy people for wanting to do this in those condition. You have to be nuts.

“My biggest fear was getting hypo-thermia and not being able to finish the race. I’ve had frostbite before and pneumonia, so my lungs don’t do so well in the cold,” explains De Hoog.

It didn’t help that she pinned her bib across the zipper of her jacket making it impossible to shed any layers. “Yeah, that wasn’t too smart. I dressed to stay warm, but then everything got wet and cold.”

The first 15 kilometres were incredibly difficult for the 25-year-old De Hoog, and the situation was made even worse when she started through the infamous Newton Hills at the 25 km mark.

“I was physically ready for the hills from my training, but I wasn’t psycho-logically ready. It felt like they were never going to end,” says De Hoog.

By the time she reached the Hills, De Hoog was resigned to the fact that she wasn’t going to meet the goal she had set herself for a potential finishing time.

“When it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to come close to the time I was hoping for, I relaxed and just started soaking up the experience. Running in the Boston Marathon was a dream I had ever since high school. So to actually be there was an accomplishment in itself.”

De Hoog also had 26 other reasons to keep going. Her students at South March Public School where she teaches were following her on their computers. Each athlete has a timing band around their ankle or their wrist that’s synced to their Marathon website so supporters can track their progress on the Internet.

The kids at South March were following De Hoog every step of the way.

“I had a whole classroom full of students who were tracking me and I dedicated a kilometre for each of them, so I told myself I have to enjoy this for the kids because I owed it to them. By that time the rain didn’t matter. The weather didn’t matter. I knew I was going to finish.”

When De Hoog saw the giant Citgo sign that marks the final mile of the Marathon, she started to pick up her pace knowing that her students had promised to go outside and run the last mile with her.

Before she crossed the finish line she ran over to her mother, Ingrid, and a family friend who had waited two hours in the rain to see her run the final 800 metres.

When she finally finished the race in three hours and 33 minutes she collapsed in a volunteers arms and started sobbing. The emotion of having finished the Boston Marathon in the conditions she endured came pouring out of her.

“I wasn’t just running the race for me. I was running for all those people who have supported me over the years ever since I dreamed of running in the Marathon,” explained De Hoog, who got en extra pre-race boost from her former track coach at Gloucester Sean Clancy.

"He just wished me luck and told me that I could do it," says De Hoog.

Asked if she planned to come back to Boston to run the marathon again, De Hoog deferred to others who have yet to run the event.

“It’s a hard race to qualify for. I’ve had my turn, so now it’s somebody else’s turn. I would like to come back eventually, but there are other marathons I want to run in like Chicago and New York. So we’ll see.”

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

 

   
   

 




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