Marathon journey hits a roadblock

Donna Creighton was training for her first Boston Marathon, but then a pandemic got in the way.

Donna Creighton was training to run this year's Boston Marathon. - Lexi Pline

Today was supposed to be it — the day she had been training for, the day when the hard work of more than four years came to fruition. After months of pain, acupuncture, specialized diets and personalized training, Donna Creighton would have taken her place on the Boston Marathon starting line in Hopkinton for the first time in her seven year running career.

The Times was following that journey and planned to be in Boston today as Creighton took on one of sports’ biggest challenges.

This year, though, the morning of Patriots Day has come and gone with vacant streets and little fanfare. Shops remain closed, spectators stay home and the marathon course is devoid of runners as cases of COVID-19 are expected to surge in Massachusetts this week, according to Gov. Charlie Baker.

Instead of running in Boston, Donna Creighton is sheltering at home with her family in Vineyard Haven. 

Up until the postponement of the marathon was announced on March 13, Creighton held out hope. “They canceled all the NBA games today, which isn’t a good sign,” she said as she decompressed from a run on the morning of March 12. “But I think it’s going to go on. That’s what I have to keep telling myself.”

The next day, officials rescheduled the marathon for Sept. 14, a first in the race’s 124-year history.

“My initial reaction was sadness for everybody,” Creighton said. “Sadness that the virus was so bad that it would cause the cancellation of something as big and important as the marathon. But personally, I was relieved.”

During her run the morning of March 12, Creighton realized something was wrong. The pain she had been experiencing in her legs went well beyond the acceptable threshold. The next day, Creighton went in for an X-ray and discovered she had been training with a tibial stress fracture, a hairline crack in her shin caused by the repetitive stress of running.

“With the marathon postponed, I feel like I’ve been given a pass,” she said. “I knew if the marathon went on as scheduled I’d push myself through it, which wouldn’t have been the smartest thing to do.”

Without the marathon to worry about, Creighton was on crutches for 10 days and barred from running or putting stress on the injured leg for six weeks, a time period that is up this Friday. In the meantime, she has been training on a Peloton exercise bike and waiting anxiously to be given the ok to get back to running.

“The virus really puts things in perspective — running is wonderful, but you need to focus and do what’s right for the whole community, not just yourself,” she said.

Although the postponement adds about 20 weeks to her training plan, the idea of running the prestigious Boston Marathon keeps her motivated, regardless of the date. Creighton sees the  nearly two extra training cycles as extra time to prepare, rather than extra time to wait. She credits this mentality to her marathon training — in life, like in training, “you have to only focus on the good. You have to focus on the positive parts, because that’s what gets you where you want to go.”

When she heads to Hopkinton in September to run, it won’t be the traditional Marathon Monday experience. Still, the unusual and dire circumstances surrounding the postponement give this year’s marathon special meaning.

“I think this marathon will be special in its own right, coming after the virus has kept us away from each other,” Creighton said. “Right now, the idea of being around a crowd seems so far away, so if we actually get there it will be just amazing to be able to run and have the crowds there cheering us on. I know it will be different, but it will be special in its own way and I’m really looking forward to it.”