Cassie Giza 18’
With 35 MPH winds, freezing rain, and slippery conditions, the weather for this year’s Boston Marathon undeniably threw a curveball to the 29,978 entered participants running the 26.2 mile race from Hopkinton to John Hancock Tower. Merrimack’s very own, Amber Gustafson, was included in the pack of 25,746 runners who weathered the storm and crossed the finish line. While running, she kept in the back of her mind, “You can’t choose the day of your race.”
However, as the four month long training journey for the 21-year-old junior member of the women’s soccer team came to a close, the underlying motivation for her first entry to a marathon will unquestionably remain.
Prior to this year, Amber participated in three half-marathons and over twenty 5K’s in support of “Team Hoyt,” a non-profit organization granting young, disabled children the chance to partake in road races. This organization introduced Gustafson to Lucy, a 10 year-old girl diagnosed with FOXG1 syndrome, a neurological condition affecting brain development. Gustafson pushed Lucy in a wheelchair throughout the races, including half-marathons. The Lancaster says of her running partner, Lucy, “When I run with Lucy I feel so lucky to be part of her life that I am able to provide Lucy with an experience she otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.”
Gustafson’s developing relationship with Lucy encouraged her to enter the 2018 Boston Marathon with the purpose of raising money for an organization similar to Team Hoyt. “I ran the marathon for the Michael Lisnow Respite Center in Hopkinton, MA,” Gustafson explains. “They provide emotional and physical support for individuals with disabilities and their families. It feels unreal to know the money I raised provides daycare for a child or allows a child’s parents to go out for the night without having to worry about their child’s care. I felt so honored to run for such an incredible charity.” Although Gustafson did not push Lucy in her wheelchair for the Boston Marathon, Lucy was present in the crowd cheering her on.
Looking forward, Gustafson plans to partake in more marathons and continue her friendship and dedication to Lucy. Gustafson explains, “With this experience I taught myself I can accomplish anything…Monday was mentally and physically draining, and many of the elite runners did not finish the race. Pushing through and crossing the finish line gave me the knowledge that I can no do whatever I set my mind to.” Gustafson’s ability to balance life as a student athlete, academics, and giving back to others defines exactly what it means to work hard, and be a true member of the Merrimack College community.