After just eight miles, her legs started hurting.
At 13 miles, she sprained the meniscus in her knee.
After about 20 miles, she noticed the severe sunburn on her shoulders and neck.
But through it all, Bristol native Lauren Gablinske kept her late brother in mind to help her fight through the pain and finish her first Boston Marathon in 4 hours, 39 minutes last month.
“I kept thinking about my brother,” Gablinske said of her younger sibling, Derek, who took his own life in 2011. “If he lived with all that pain for so long, I can do this for a short time.”
Ms. Gablinske began running as her own source of therapy, and she has used the sport to keep his memory alive, and to raise an impressive amount of money for the Samaritans, an organization dedicated to reducing the incidence of suicide. Ms. Gablinske found solace in the Samaritans mission after her brother’s death, and decided to join the Samaritans team in the marathon.
The Samaritans marathon team ended up raising more than $250,000 for the organization, a large chunk of which came from Ms. Gablinske herself. Beginning last year when she registered for the race, the Bristol native has raised more than $34,000 on her own, receiving more than 400 individual donations.
“Our original goal was less. We totally blew it out of the water,” Ms. Gablinske said.
She solicited donations of any size from anyone who would give to the organization. She sent out a mailer to everyone who had contacted her family after her brother’s death, letting them know she was running in his memory and offering them the chance to support the cause. She spoke before civic groups like the Bristol Rotary Club to gain donations from the business community. An article in the Bristol Phoenix also helped spread the word.
“The Bristol Phoenix article raised a tremendous amount of attention,” Ms. Gablinske said. “Complete strangers started reaching out and giving donations. They had read the story and were touched by it. To be able to reach the community where I grew up was really huge.”
Other media exposure followed, including segments on NBC 10 in Providence and CBS Boston. “There was a domino effect, and we were able to reach people in different communities,” she said.
Ms. Gablinske’s fundraising prowess earned her a spot on the John Hancock Charities leader board, and a ticket to a reception at Fenway Park during a Red Sox game the night before the race, where she met other runners who brought in impressive sums for their charities. “That was one of the most inspiring nights of my life,” she said.
Ms. Gablinske has certainly provided some inspiration of her own. Despite the injuries, a crowded field of runners that prevented much movement until the pack broke up around mile 17, and temperatures that soared above 70 degrees at time on a rare warm April day, Ms. Gablinske said the race couldn’t have gone any better for her.
“Physically and mentally I was in a really good place. I had a consistent race the whole time,” she said of her first marathon. “Seeing all those people cheering for you, you feel like a superstar and they don’t even know you. The last mile, I took my headphones off to enjoy the moment and take everything in. When I crossed the line, I was sobbing. Everything just came to me. It was such a huge moment for me.”
To donate to the Samaritans and further increase Ms. Gablinske’s total, visit her donation page here.