“Never Again,” I said… HA!

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“Yep, that was a one-and-done,” I proclaimed after trudging through pouring rain for 26.2 miles last spring. I’ve said that about a lot of things- climbing mountains, going back to school, tequila shots, etc.

But what fun is that?!

Lots has happened since I ran the Boston Marathon in 2015. I stress ate my way through the last few weeks of grad school. I spent a couple months flopping around, working odd jobs, learning to play fiddle, staving off the post-collegiate existential crisis. Then, I got a pretty kickass job. Chris and I moved in together, we moved home again for ten minutes when our lease awkwardly ran out, then we moved in together again.

Things have been good. Really, really good. But the little voice persists:

“Wouldn’t it be fun to do that again?”

Painful, sadistic fun. The best kind! I’ve still been running- 2 half marathons this year, a bunch of smaller races (shout out to Karen for pushing the Wild Rover series!), lots of lunch runs with work buddies.

But more importantly, 2017 is a big year for me. This February will be the 10 year anniversary of my Mom passing away, and I’ve been wanting to do something special to remember her- and to do some good in her honor.

Enter Team Tufts. Tufts Medical Center does incredible research and treatment for cardiac disease, which is why they were my top pick for a charity team this year. I’m excited to raise funds for an awesome organization that makes a difference, both within our community and on a global level.

I’m planning on using this blog a little differently this time around- it will mostly be a training journal. I won’t be dedicating miles this year- 2017 is all for Mom.

I hope you’ll consider making a donation to this awesome cause!

http://www.teamtuftsmc.org/theresaconn

Cheers to the next 5 months of madness.

-Theresa

 

I am a BOSTON MARATHON FINISHER.

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Spoiler alert: I finished. But not without a fight. A long, long, much longer than expected, cold, long, heavy, wet, damp, soaked, frigid, long, fight.

Obviously couldn’t sleep, and woke up before my alarm to get ready to head to Hopkinton. I decided against the bus, because it made no sense to go from Billerica to Boston to Hopkinton. This did cause me stress, though, because the BAA proclaimed that their buses are the only guaranteed way to get to the starting line. Gulp.

Dad, Jill, and I left around 7:30 to head down 495. (Jill and I did a complicated getaway car maneuver the night before so I could leave Boston after the race without dealing with the T. Jill is my MVP best friend of the month/life after what she has done for me this week. LOVE YOU). After a minor bump in the road involving Daddy Dearest missing the exit, we arrived at the South Street parking lot a little before 9. I had nothing to worry about- I was on a shuttle within 10 or 15 minutes, and was at the Athlete’s Village in another 5. I definitely recommend this method for anyone who lives along the 495 corridor.

First stop was the long porta potty line, where I hung out with the cutest Canadian woman who sounded like the lady cop from Fargo. (Oh, you BETCHA!!!) I found my Marathon Coalition buddies and sat down to wait. Just as our corrals were called, around 10:30, it started to rain. And not cute, misty rain. Like, rain-rain. I picked up a discarded trash bag and mylar sheet from the ground (new low?), and joined the mass exodus towards the start line.

The starting line was mayhem, and the rain wasn’t helping. The gun went off, and we shuffled uphill towards the start, already drenched. Then, holy cow, we were running the Boston Marathon.

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Looking OH so photogenic, maybe in Natick center?

The first seven miles were awesome. I had my Turtles, the crowds were thick, and the course was nicely downhill. The rain was constant, though. I was wearing underarmour coldgear pants, my Feaster Five longsleeve techwick, my Girl Scouts penny (that never saw the light of day… sorry, team), gloves/headband, and a cycling raincoat that I bought a few weeks ago when I was in my obsessively-buying-things-for-every-possible-scenario phase (thanks, Theresa of the Past). But, I was still cold. Luckily, I knew my family was at mile 7 with an extra pair of leggings. I decided to slap them on when I got there.

Seeing my Dad, Auntie Susan, Uncle Dave, and Jill at Beaver Street in Framingham was AWESOME. I felt so great at that point. I told my turtles that I would catch up with them, and stopped to put on extra pants. Putting on another layer: good idea. Pushing myself to catch up with my team: BAD IDEA. Theresa, what did Coach Rick tell you over and over? CONSERVE. YOUR. ENERGY. But I was feeling great, and the thought of completing the remaining 19 miles alone in the rain was awful. So I sped up to meet up with everyone… and when I got there, I was a little toasted. I had a stitch in my side, and wasn’t feeling hot. No bueno.

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Smile through the stitches!

I kept up with Karen and Charlie for a few more miles, through Natick and Wellesley (where I saw my yellow-coated lovey CAROLINE), until roughly Mile 17. I came to terms with the fact that they were feeling better than I was at that point, and if I was going to make it, I had to cool it. This was disheartening for me, because I had been training with them for much of the season… and had never had a problem keeping pace. Luckily, I knew I was seeing Chris at Mile 18.

By this point, I was BEYOND drenched. Like, beyond. Every step was a squish in my portable puddles aka my shoes. Although I was soaked, I was never uncomfortably cold. I have no idea how all the people in shorts and tank tops finished the race.

With a mocha ClifShot to pep me up, I made the turn at the fire station. Tons of people were looking dejected at this point, but not this girl. I KNEW those hills. I KNEW exactly how they would roll, all the way to BC. Seeing Chris at Mile 18, standing alone in the rain, gave me the energy I needed to get to the top of Heartbreak. I had made a promise to myself, on all those cold, hard, training runs, that I would try my best to run all the way up Heartbreak without stopping. And I did it. Yes, I did it at a turtle’s pace, but I jogged past dozens of defeated walkers, in the pouring rain, all the way to the top. Since I was the only person moving at a slightly above walking speed, all of the spectators zeroed in on me and cheered me on. It was one of my favorite moments of the race.

And then, the suck really began. The rain was not letting up, and a brutal headwind kicked in as I ran/walked into Brookline. Remember that the most I had run up to this point was 21 miles… many of the longer runs of my training were cancelled because of snow, and I missed a few because of China. And, I was carrying at least ten extra pounds on me because my clothes were so wet and heavy.

It was getting late. The crowds were thin in the awful weather. But still, me and thousands of others (including my friend Amy- we leapfrogged the last few miles) soldiered on towards Boylston. The best way to describe it was a death march. It was the opposite of fun.

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A pretty good representation of the last 5 miles… lots of walking dejectedly. 

But wait! What is that beautiful red, white, and blue sign breaking through the stormclouds? Ah, CITGO. I love you.

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Because of the weather, we weren’t able to see the CITGO sign or the city in the distance until we were pretty much on top of the final hill. From there, it was a right on Hereford, left on Boylston…

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In disbelief that the finish line was in sight. 

From there, the crowd carried me. I stopped for quick hugs and kisses from my loved ones (again, so incredible to see my boyfriend, family, and friends standing there, knowing they had to wait half the day in the rain), and then spotted my Dad, who hopped a barrier to run the last smidge with me. And then, beautifully, gratefully, it was over. A little less than 6 hours. Almost an hour longer than I had originally reckoned it would take. But it didn’t matter: I was a Boston Marathon Finisher. After training in the worst winter ever recorded, I finished the race in some of the most challenging weather conditions in Marathon history. My two feet carried me all the way from Hopkinton to Boston. 26.2 miles. I did it all.

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From there, it’s a frigid blur: wrapping myself in a tiny mylar sheet because they ran out of blankets, shivering through the streets of Boston looking for the Westin, pounding the most wonderful hot pretzel, and weaseling my way into scoring a free burrito from Chipotle. And then, it was over. Got back to my house in time to watch Bates Motel, and slept like a rock.

I finished the race feeling 100% confident that I would never run a marathon again. Of course, a week later, my resolve is weaning. I’m perusing fall halfs, training plans, marathon blogs. I KNOW I can do better, time-wise. And I can’t help but feel that my Boston experience was dampened (ha) by the rain. Regardless of whether I return as a runner or a spectator in the future, you can bet that I will be back, Boston. My teammate Karen put it perfectly: The marathon is just a celebration of all of your training. Being a part of the Marathon Coalition, and having the opportunity to reconnect with so many people I love through this blog, was an amazing experience. And over $5,500 raised for the Girl Scouts of Eastern MA. So one, final time: thank. you. Thank. You. THANK. YOU. As Coach Rick says: “Nothing significant in life is ever accomplished alone.”

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So, that’s it for this chapter. It was a long, but wonderful, road to Copley. I’ve received so much positive feedback about this blog, it’s been overwhelming. I’m excited to take this momentum and start a new project, Run Hike Pizza, which will combine some ideas that have been floating around in my head for a while. More on that in a few weeks… for now, I am declaring this blog done, so I can finally catch up on Game of Thrones and talk to Taylor about it. YEAH!

Miles 25 and 26: Mom and Dad

Before running, before the adventures around the world, before school, and jobs, and Chris, before anything, it was me, Mom, and Dad.

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The nineties. Jelly-bean shaped baby heads.

Being an only child, my parents were my whole world. Yes, I had great pals, cousins, aunts and uncles. But at the end of the day, it was just me, Mum, and Daddy, in our red Cape with the big backyard. I credit Mom for my love of music and dancing, my creativity, my “loon”-y side. Dad gave me his obsession with nature and hiking, his love of fixing and creating. My Mom was a painter, and played flute. Dad remodeled our house and built a wooden kayak by hand. I grew up in a household where we ate dinner every night together. We vacationed once a year to places like Maine and New Hampshire, always on a lake. My childhood was happy, and full.

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When our family of three became two, it felt like nothing would ever be okay again. How do you come back from losing someone who is literally a part of you? Someone who was supposed to be there for your graduation, your wedding? Losing my Mom is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Today, it still totally, 100%, completely sucks.

But, here I am. Eight years later. Still as tight as ever with my Dad, and grateful for every day I spend with him. Grateful to sit and watch the Patriots win the Super Bowl, grateful for the opportunity to bicker, grateful for every dinner we share in the same dining room we shared with Mom. And that feeling of gratefulness for every moment, that realization that life is short, is the best thing my Mom left me with. Knowing that nothing is guaranteed has pushed me to live life to the fullest extent possible, often at the edge of my comfort zone. It has led me to the tops of mountains, to graduate school, to the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

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Mile 25 and 26 are dedicated to my parents, who I love more than I can express. Thank you for everything.

LET’S DO THIS.

‘Twas the eve before the marathon

And there was no food in the house

For Theresa had eaten all of it

Blah blah blah, mouse. 

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Alright, folks. It’s here. Game time. When I had pictured race day, training through this horrific, awful winter, I imagined blue skies, sunshine, and cool air, a nice reward for all my suffering. NOPE! I will be running in the stupid rain and the stupid headwind, and you know what? WHATEVER. I am not going to stress myself out over the stupid weather because I can’t change the stupid weather because the weather has been stupid this whole time and it’s going to go out with a big stupid weather bang. New England: bring it.

Bib number is 26964. You can track me if you want- on race day, check out the Boston Marathon website. Game plan: Pops is dropping me at the South Street lot by 8:30, where I will arrive looking glamorous with my trash bag poncho. From there, I will be chillin’ in the Athlete’s Village with the Marathon Coalition and Team Turtle. And then, at 11:15 (Wave 4 Corral 3… although I may move back to be with some other peeps), I will put one foot in front of the other all the way from Hopkinton to Boston, and then, I will have a beer.

LET’S. GO.

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Mile 24: All the Aunts n’ Uncles

10411429_10202473848027480_2342233027937074029_nMile 24 is dedicated to all the aunts and uncles in my life- both by blood and by just being around all the time!

First off: my favorite uncle, my only uncle, my dear Uncle John. Always ready with a movie reference that I may or may not understand. Lover of meat and potatoes. And South Park! (Also, honorable mention goes to Cousins Eric and Steven).

And next, my favorite aunts, my only aunts, Judy and Kim! Fans of puppies and Florida sun rays.

And… nope, that’s it. Tiny family! Luckily, I have plenty of honorary aunts and uncles to thank. Aunts Amy, Darlene, Mary Ellen, and Susan; Uncles John (other one), John (the other other one), Joe, Morky, Dave, and Fred; thank you for teaching me everything from Scottish Country Dancing to basket weaving.

This is a brief post… probably because I’m running a marathon tomorrow….. and I’m pretty mentally/emotionally fried. Physically good though! Woo!

Mile 23: Girl Scouts

Mile 23 is dedicated to the organization I am fundraising on behalf of: the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts!

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Our AWESOME race bibs (which will be hiding under my raincoat booo). 

I started as a Brownie, and stuck with Girl Scouts all the way through high school. Some of my favorite memories from those years are goofy days at Camp Maude Eaton, workin’ quads on the Pomps Pond pedal boats, and holding on for dear life as our troop went backwards over white water rapids at Zoar. My years in Girl Scouts gave me an overzealous obsession with nature, crafting, and s’mores. (And cookies, duh).

Combined, our GSEM Boston Marathon team has raised over $75,000 for the council that I was a part of for over a decade. The funds we’ve raised will go to the “Girl Scouts Get Moving” initiative, which puts on programs throughout the year to encourage Girl Scouts to get active and lead healthy lives. I’m still in shock that I surpassed my fundraising goal of $5,000. Mile 23 is dedicated to all the amazing women I met through the Girl Scouts!

2 Years Later

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

–Cloud Atlas

After a two year hiatus, I have returned to my yoga mat. I remember my last class clearly: it was the afternoon of April 15th, 2013. I was at the peak of training for my first half marathon, and was balancing my training runs with trips to 3 Bridges Yoga in Durham.

I found out about the bombings almost immediately. I was sitting in the library, killing time before my yoga class, when “Breaking News” popped up on my Facebook feed. This was before the extent of the tragedy was known; this was when the bombs were simply “explosions,” and could have been anything- a broken gas line, maybe.

My mind was racing, filling up with worry about all the people I knew were down by the finish line. I didn’t know anyone running, but that didn’t matter; Marathon Monday is a social event, and half of my Boston-suburb town was bound to be there. I sent off roughly a million texts, and got maybe one or two back. I tried calling my Dad to see if he knew what was going on, but the phones were tied up. The news didn’t seem to know either… they played the same grainy footage over and over.

I decided to go to yoga to try to clear my head. Big mistake. It was the worst, and longest, class of my life. My head was spinning with “what ifs,” constantly thinking of other people I knew that could be downtown. Lauren, oh my god, Lauren. Lauren, the marathon-running, Lesley College student. I could picture her perfectly cheering along the finishers.

By the end of the night, I had gotten a hold of everyone I needed to, and to my relief, they all were okay. This relief was quickly replaced by horror as the true nature of the tragedy began to emerge. No one in New England will ever forget that week. We grieved for the four who were lost, and the hundreds that were hurt. We watched, and waited. I obsessively checked the news for updates: why did this happen? Who did this? Where are they? The release of the Tsarnev photos, and the subsequent manhunt, still doesn’t feel real. I drove home to Billerica on Friday night, listening to the fuzzy reports on the radio about a possible suspect in a boat… then, the sound of distant cheers, and the relief of the announcer as he said, “It’s over.”

Sometimes when I’m running, especially along the course, I get unexpectedly choked up. Training for the Boston Marathon has been supercharged with emotions. Pain and grief are there, of course, exacerbated by the trial this spring. And deep down, fear. The unanswered question: what if it happens again?

But those bad feelings are always, always edged out by good ones. Admiration of the 30,000 determined people that will be toeing the starting line in Hopkinton Monday. Pride for the thousands who have emerged from the bombing stronger than they were before. Endearment for my fellow Marathon Coalition runners, who have braved training through the worst winter in recorded history. And, most of all, love: love for my family and friends who have supported me on this journey, love for my teammates and coaches, and love for my city. Our city.

And so, I return to my mat, just as inflexible and useless as yoga as I was two years ago. But, grateful. Grateful for my muscles shaking beneath me. Grateful for my feet, which have taken a beating this winter. Grateful to be a part of this messy, difficult, beautiful thing called “The Boston Marathon;” grateful to have a chance to put forth a little more good in the world.

“We run for those who can’t.”

Mile 22: Heather Bent

Heather Bent scared the crap out of me. She terrified me in a way that only your best friend’s older sister can. When I met Heather, the summer before my freshman year of high school, she seemed to be everything I was not: fashionable as hell, college-bound, and drop dead gorgeous. I’m usually pretty silly when I hang out with Jill, but I always clammed up around Heather, even when I grew out of my awkward phase. She was just too cool. She was like a force of nature. She lit up the room.

99_55050Rocking some early 2000’s choker action!

Honestly, I didn’t know Heather very well; we lived in different little Billerica worlds because of our age difference. But Heather was always around- sippin’ on Dunks, lounging by the pool, waving to me in the mall.

She got sick so fast. It started with a sore knee. Then, in January, a leukemia diagnosis. By September, she was gone. Heather was 22.

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Fashionable until the end.

We visited Heather the day before I left for college. Jill and I had just gone to the annual Boston Watergun Fight. It was a hot August day, and we were happily drenched. The theme was “Past vs. Future,” and the Esplanade was filled with duct-tape Minutemen and tinfoil Robots. Jill and I were sporting some metallic bathing suit getups. Dripping and giggling, we headed towards MGH to visit Heather.

Going from the muggy Boston air to the frigid hospital was a shock. We squished along the linoleum in our wet sneakers, picking up gloves and medical masks before heading to Heather’s floor.  I had seen Heather since she got sick, but it was still-glam Heather at her benefit show, all done up with her big hat. This was Heather in her new reality: hooked up to machines, stuck in a glassed-in box overlooking the city. Still her sassy self, Heather sought no pity, instantly ragging on us for our weird wet outfits. I feel privileged to share that afternoon laughing with Jill and her sister, suspended above the city.

One story from Heather’s time at MGH sticks out. One of her doctors, a marathon runner, was obsessed with gummy bears. They were her secret weapon when marathon training got tough. The burst of sugar was enough to help her put one foot in front of the other. Convinced of the magic of gummy bears, the doctor handed them out to her cancer patients when they struggled with tough days in treatment.

While Mile 22 will be undoubtedly difficult on race day, it will be nothing compared to what Heather and the Bent family have gone though. Heather, I will be thinking of your fierceness, your tenacity, and your gummy bears on Monday.

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One of my favorite pictures of Jill and Heather.

Mile 21: Caney and the Demars Family

First off: HOLY COW MORE THAN $5,000 RAISED! You all are the BEST.

Anywho, as I sit here eating this CLIF bar (hi carbs), it seems fitting to dedicate Mile 21 to the only girl I know who can pound as many CLIF bars as me… CANEY DEMARS! (And her family)!

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Equally excited on the first day of kindergarten and the first day of an adventure. A little taller.

If you haven’t gathered yet, I’m an only child, but this lady is pretty much my sister. And I don’t say that in a cute sorority way. I say that in a “we love each other but we can also hate each other’s guts on long car rides when we’re hungry” way.

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Case in point.

In all seriousness, Caney and I are basically the same person. It’s disturbing. Put two weird kiddies together in preschool, make them best friends through second grade, then cruelly separate them by moving one of them to Vermont. Strangely, they will retain their similar weirdness, which doubles when they are together.

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What are we doing in that Price Chopper? Never mind.

After she ditched me, Caney and I stayed pen pals through elementary and middle school, and started bussin’ up and down New England in high school and college for a variety of antics that very few people would find amusing. (But we did. OH WE DID).

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Models?

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Water Gun Fight!

Then, the real escapades began. We rung in New Years’ Eve in Madrid. We hiked with a baby bear in Yosemite. We ate our weight in Souvlaki in Greece.

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Did these adventures drain our savings accounts and take us out of our comfort zones? Yes. Was taking a big trip days before we started grad school a good idea? Nope. Was all of it worth it? YES.

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Looking classy????

Caney, you nerd, Mile 21 is dedicated to you, and you better be grateful cuz 21 is my favorite number. Leah, Chris, and Max, thank you for being my quirky foster family over the years. Callie, thanks for the licks.

Mile 20: The MUB

Four (!) years ago, I scored the best job on campus. I got a job at the MUB!

Bus Stop

The Memorial Union Building is the heart of campus. We have it all here… meeting rooms for clubs, movie theaters, a food court, big events, and even a karaoke machine. (Little known fact! It’s very new. It also autotunes you, which exponentially improves my karaoke skills.).

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Old school OSIL.

I started working in the MUB Leadership Center my sophomore year of college. The LC was home to Student Orgs, Greek Life, and Commuter Services.

I didn’t know what a good workplace culture was until I started working at the MUB. On your first day of training, you hear a whole lot about “MUB Love.” What’s all that about? It’s simple: people love to work at the MUB, the MUB loves people who work at the MUB, and there’s generally just a whole lot of love involving people and the MUB.

This is the OSIL

We also love snacks.

I gingerly eased my way in (just kidding, my first night of work was at Jukebox) to our little LC world of event planning and poster making. My first year at work was spent learning the ropes and wrapping my head around all the incredible services the MUB offers students.

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The OG LC crew, pre-OSIL. WOOO ACRONYMS

Over the summer, the LC magically transformed into the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, and working in the MUB went into #MUBLOVEOVERDRIVE. Our new office set up truly transformed the student org experience on campus.

OSIL Rearranged

Wowza! Wowza! Wowza! 

The OSIL became the campus hub for student leaders. It also became our staff hangout spot. At any point in the week you could find at least one non-working OSIL employee chilling on the couches (probably asleep if it was Cory).

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CAUGHT in the act.

One thing I love about the MUB is that the sky’s the limit here. If you have an idea for a new initiative or event, you can gather support and use the MUB’s tools and resources to make it happen. There’s an exciting entrepreneurial spirit both in the OSIL and throughout the building. There’s always something happenin’ in the MUB.

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These people have your back.

My other favorite thing about working in the MUB is that even the worst-sounding things (Good Morning Commuters in January, I’m looking at you) end up being fun. When you put a bunch of peppy, wacky people who are stoked about student involvement together, it’s going to be a good time.

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We also really like theme banquets.

To my OSILettes: Thank you for the countless hours of laughs and deep talks while we worked the desk and fought printer monsters. To our administrative mentors: Thank you for giving all of us space, trust, and support that allowed us to try our crazy ideas in the OSIL and the MUB. Finally, special thanks to our fearless leader, MaryAnne Lustgraaf, for instilling MUB LOVE at every level of our organization.

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Hi there! I am part of the Girl Scouts of Eastern MA charity team, training for next week’s Boston Marathon! You can donate to this great cause here.