ORR DREAMFAR team reaches marathon goal

May 3, 2016

Two days and 26.2 miles after their first marathon, Old Rochester Regional’s DREAMFAR Club is sore. They hobble into Megan Hall’s classroom, their bodies still in recovery, but as they talk about their journey to get to this point, they’re clearly still on a runner’s high.

DREAMFAR is a non-competitive high school marathon program that started in Newton in 2008. Hall learned about the program as a teacher in Newton. After coming to Old Rochester Regional High School, Hall and fellow teacher Sheilah Sullivan discussed starting a running program at ORR. Sullivan’s thought was to build up to a 5 or 10K; Hall said, “Let’s run a marathon!”

Drawn in by the promise of bagels at their first meeting, six students signed up for the club in October.

Kylie Machado, a senior, said a marathon was on her bucket list, but she didn’t think she would ever attempt it.

“Then there was a bagel and the possibility to accomplish it. So why not?” she said.

Meghan Johnson doubted herself from the start.

“I don’t think I thought I was going to make it all the way through,” she said.

That changed before long. “At first, DREAMFAR was kind of a nuisance,” Johnson admitted. But with senior year stress, her grandfather’s passing and other life events, running became an outlet. “I used the running to release all the stress.”

The students and their mentors, a combination of staff and community members, were all changed by their commitment to go from 5K to 26.2 miles.

“Prior to it, I did have self-esteem issues with my body. I wasn’t happy with how I looked,” said Machado. “After we started with DREAMFAR, that got shot out of my head. I was only thinking about how I could be healthy.”

Kelsea Kidney, the only freshman on the team, signed up after a nudge from her mom. Her goal was to finish the 10K and quit, but again her mom encouraged to keep going. In the meantime, her dad also pushed her to join the track team for one season.

The reluctant runner recently finished first in the freshman and sophomore two-mile event.

Sophomore Georgie Battaglia saw the club as a chance to grow her friend base.

“I didn’t have many friends at the beginning of my high school years,” she said. “I’m pretty glad I joined because I have some pretty awesome friends.”

If they weren’t acquainted before, the students and mentors bonded quickly over sweat, tears and a lot of miles, all with the goal of making it not only to, but through the Providence Marathon, which they all did last Sunday, some six months and hundreds of miles from the starting line of Hall’s classroom.

Euphoric at having accomplished their goal, the group admitted that finishing the first half was much easier than the last.

At the New Bedford Half Marathon, some of the runners finished minutes before the race ended. In Providence, those same miles flew by.

“I didn’t believe we were actually running the marathon until the ninth mile,” said Dan Carneiro.

Later on, they started to feel the burn. Machado got her first shin splint at mile 22.

“The hardest part of the entire race was after that, mentally telling myself that I wasn’t in pain.”

There were tears.

“It was hell,” said Battaglia. “I cried from miles seventeen to twenty-six.”

When she got to the finish line and saw Hall there, Maggie Howland said she started crying. That was pretty much everyone’s response when they finally reached the end.

“It was the most liberating feeling in my entire life,” said Machado.

Now that they’re done, all are hoping to continue running in some form. Kidney and Battaglia are eager to return as DREAMFAR veterans, Carneiro, Johnson and Machado have already connected with college peers who want to run, and Howland said she might be convinced to come back for the half-marathon next year.

Several of the mentors will be back too, especially the teacher who knew the students could accomplish more than a 5K.

Said Hall, “I’m in!”