quest for the finish line: back to the boston marathon
posted: April 17, 2014
This Instagram shot of Melinda at the 2013 Big Sur Half International Marathon may be out of focus, but the message is clear
Melinda Sarkis has always been graceful, confident and adamant that she is not a runner. Yet, this Boston spitfire and lululemon ambassador is running her fourth Boston Marathon on Monday, the 118th running of the event.
A core fusion teacher at Boston’s Exhale Spa and confidently cool cycling instructor at Flywheel, Melinda brings out the athlete and inherent potential in her students. Her energy at six o’clock in the morning is infectious. Snag a coffee with her and you’ll discover she knows just about everyone in the café. Her intense focus and sense of humour are both unique. Never mind that she is also one of Boston’s top real estate agents.
For such a self-assured woman, however, Melinda’s confidence in her running abilities used to be a different story, and she went out of her way to avoid it. Even when she gave sprint triathlons a whirl she would go out hard in the swim and bike portion so that she could walk the run portion.
Then things changed. Big time.
Melinda’s journey in becoming a runner began in the hospital when, in June 2009, her mother had a stroke and couldn’t eat or talk properly for nearly six months. Week after week Melinda sat by her side, until one day the two had a conversation that would change both of their lives.
“If you can walk out of this hospital, I will run the Boston Marathon,” Melinda told her mother.
Her mother promptly replied, “You don’t run.”
Melinda countered, “Well, you don’t walk.”
One month later, her mother took her first steps since the stroke, and Melinda set her sights on what it would take to run 26.2 miles (42.2kms).
When I headed down to Boylston Street to do an interview for our local TV station it all just hit me. I took a left turn towards the Lenox Hotel where my family was last year when the first bomb hit…and it all hit me…. I immediately broke down and had one of the most colossal cries I’ve ever had. The images of people running everywhere, crying and screaming, and not being able to find my brother who was running with me…. That day came flooding back. I had done such and amazing job for 364 days to stuff those feelings away, but yesterday it all came flooding back —Melinda Sarkis, April 15, 2014
She joined Tedy’s Team, a group of runners led by former New England Patriot Tedy Bruschi, who suffered a stroke at the age of 31. With the team, Melinda committed to raising money and awareness for the American Stroke Association, and by April 2011 she had fundraised more than $23,000. That same month, she also finished the 115th running of the Boston Marathon.
Tedy asked Melinda to run again in 2012, but when Marathon Monday arrived at a sweltering 98 degrees (37C), Melinda felt like she couldn’t hit her potential. It was clear that she would be toeing the start line for a third Boston Marathon the following year, a deal sweetened by the fact her bother Chris had agreed to run with her.
Then things changed, again.
On April 15, 2013, Melinda found herself at mile 25.5 of the Boston Marathon, stopped in a sea of people, and beyond anxious to locate her brother. She searched for two hours, but couldn’t spot his familiar face and matching jersey in the traumatized crowd. Then she remembered what her father had always taught her; “Go back to where you started.” She bee-lined for the restaurant where she and Chris said their goodbyes before the marathon, and there the two fell into each other’s arms.
Police closed the streets; the city mourned; and Melinda reeled from it all. All she’d wanted to do was run.
Five days later Melinda crossed the finish line of the Big Sur International Marathon in California. Along with several of her Tedy’s Team members, she discovered she’d become somewhat of a celebrity. Upon hearing that not only was she from Boston but she’d been in the Boston Marathon days earlier, people stopped to take photos, and bestow them with Californian souvenirs and dinner.
Caught up in the excitement, overwhelmed by the incredible support of strangers and experiencing a serious post-marathon runner’s high with her team members by her side, Melinda finally got it. She was a runner.
On Monday, Melinda is chasing the Boston Marathon dream again, deeply humbled by her running journey and, these days, fully confident in her abilities as a runner. She’s even aiming to set a new personal record for this year’s race, though she’s quick to affirm that her real goal is to enjoy every moment, to cherish those that have brought her to this point and not to wait for the finish line.
Clockwise from top left: Melinda and her mom; in memoriam; Boston or bust; with Tedy Bruschi
Samantha is a handstand fanatic, Red Sox enthusiast, and loves running along the Charles River. She likes both Boston and wicked good french pressed coffee quite a bit.