By Jimmy K with special contribution from Ed Hayes
My favorite part about training for Louisville came in the 12 weeks after receiving this email:
Sent: Sunday, February 07, 2016 9:17 PM
Subject: Re: Saturday Run-Barrington
So I think I’ve lost my mind but I’m considering joining all of you at Louisville. Is everyone staying at The Galt House? I’m working on figuring out some scheduling but hoping it will work.
That message from my new running friend Missy was received on Super Bowl Sunday…after the game. I wondered, had she been hitting the sauce or did she really lose her mind like the rest of us? Sure enough, she lost her mind. I was quite excited she decided to join our Running Mates road trip down to the Derby Festival Marathon. When it was all said and done, another story surfaced which is meant to be told.
Although I met Missy Hayes over a year ago, I really didn’t get to know her until early this year on some of our winter runs. It took less than one full conversation for me to realize I was talking to one impressive lady. She’s genuine with a very calm demeanor about her and best of all, she’s a White Sox fan. We started training together and our talks flowed so easily the long runs seemed to be over just as quickly as they started. Her positive energy was contagious. We became fast friends (no pun intended).
She and her awesome husband Ed have been married for 25 years and have 4 adult children. Typically when the kids reach adulthood, parents can’t wait for them to leave the house. Missy wants them to never leave…well most days. She’s a long time special education teacher working with children who have autism or learning/emotional disabilities. She gleams when you get her talking about her family or career, making her passion obvious for what are 2 of the most important aspects of her life. She’s truly a selfless individual.
Missy took up running about 15 years ago as a form of mental therapy and hasn’t stopped. It allows her to plan out or reflect on her day depending on when she goes for her run. After turning 40 in the same year in 2007 Missy and Ed wanted to do something completely different and perhaps crazy. Ed suggested they run a marathon together. To make it even more meaningful they chose to run for Autism Research. On October 12, 2008 the couple, sweethearts since high school, crossed the finish line at the Chicago Marathon. In fact, Missy has crossed that same finish line in each of the 7 years since!
“I think it’s the support that everyone gives that keeps me doing it. I have always run for Autism Research. They are an amazing group. I also love seeing my family along the way at each marathon. I have been lucky enough to run one with Ed and two with my daughter Aubrey…who gets to do that ???”, Missy says. Ed refers to Missy as a “leisure runner” citing it as “an escape, almost a stress reliever.” Of her 8 Chicago Marathons she never ran with a true time goal in mind. Regarding her typical marathon Ed says, “we see her along the route 5 or 6 times and she stops every time passing out hugs, drinking G2 and smiling.”
The game plan for 2016 would be quite different for Missy. As she started training for Derby Festival it became quite obvious to all of us that she is a much stronger runner than her already impressive marathon PR of 4:31 indicates. Hence we began planting the Boston Qualifier seed in her head. Knowing her age would be 50 when Boston 2017 takes place she realized it would take a 4:00 finish time. This is the same qualifying time needed by our mate Ann, who was targeting Louisville for her BQ.
Missy figured since she ran her first marathon after 40 why not celebrate 50 by running the Boston Marathon. With 5 weeks to go before Louisville Missy, like others in our group, hired Eric Wallor from Full Potential Running. She said, “I hired Eric because I have seen what his support can do. Once I got this crazy Boston idea in my head I knew I would need all the help I could get.”
Thinking a BQ in Louisville was not realistic she eyed the Last Chance BQ2 on September 10th as her target race. This happens to be the same race Amanda has targeted. She and Eric began to put the plan in to motion for the September race. First, she needed to get through Louisville.
Ed says, “Deciding she wanted to start a training program seemed like an obvious progression in her running. The kids and I were thrilled when she decided she wanted Boston.” I ran enough training runs with her to realize that a Louisville BQ was realistic. She was following her plan religiously and looking stronger than ever. Ed once described Missy as “regimented” to me. I asked him to give me an example and he shared this response:
“Missy had a teacher friend at work ask her about her running. Her friend asked, “does it mess you up if you miss a day?” Missy responded, “what do you mean? I don’t miss a day”. Her friend pressed, “Ya, but what if you do? What if it’s raining or it’s snowing?” Missy laughed, “I get wet or cold.” It’s true, she has her set running days and does not deviate from her plan. But again, I know you all do is why I am so glad she found all of you .. ‘cause you’re all nuts!”
It was time to head to Louisville. Her students didn’t like the idea of Mrs. Hayes being so far away but they wisheg her luck and told her to win her race. Missy admitted, “I was nervous going into race day but also super excited. I had never done a marathon other than Chicago so that was exciting and being away with such a great group of people just made it even better.” As for during the race she says, “I’m pretty sure my whole strategy was to stay with Ann. I did my best and she was definitely in a zone. Thinking back our pace was probably a little quicker than I should’ve been going but I really wanted to stick with her. I think I realized a BQ was possible as we were finishing the hills in Louisville around mile 15. I knew for sure that Ann was going to pull it off and I just hoped that I would be able to stick by her.”
Missy did stick with Ann, who was being paced by her son Martin. They were running at a pace to finish around 3:50 which would be massive PRs and BQs as well. Then at mile 24 Missy’s legs began to give out and her pace slowed. Ann felt good and told Martin to keep pacing Missy. Missy recounts, “I thought that if I walked for a couple of minutes that I would be good to go. Unfortunately my legs did not agree with that plan and started to spasm. Ann’s poor son was my hero. To be totally honest I don’t really remember a lot of what happened from mile 24 to 26.”
Ed, who was biking with Ann’s husband Marty to various spots to cheer the ladies on along the course shared the following: “Marty and I decided after 21 – 22 to ride our bikes ahead to the finish line. We wanted to watch Ann and Missy cross. Again, keep in mind that they were step for step the entire way. We stopped at 24 when we saw Amanda and we were so excited to hear about her success. Then Ann passed and there was no sign of Missy or Martin. Minutes passed and now I was scared. No, I was very scared. In the distance I caught a glimpse of Missy walking, leaning on Martin. I ran onto the course to take her other arm and I never want to see that look on her face ever again. I thought she was going to collapse in our arms. Race officials approached her and tried taking her off the course and she barked at them to back off, “I’m finishing! Get away from me!” Ann’s son Martin was extraordinary. He talked to Missy in strategic terms about how much time she had, “Missy your fine, you’ve got 8:20 before we have to pick up pace.” He was tracking that damn BQ! I wanted to carry her off the course and Martin was zen-like keeping her set on her goal.”
Missy through relentless drive and determination caught sight of the finish line. She told Martin not to leave her side because she was going to fall after she crosses the mat. She crossed the line in 3:57:38 earning her a massive 34 minute PR and a Boston Qualifying time by 2 minutes 22 seconds.
Volunteers rushed her to the medical tent. Ann, who earned a BQ just minutes earlier made her way to the tent to check on her well-being. Ed, still scared to death, also made his way there and was kind enough to describe the scene. “By the time I got to her at the medical tent she looked exhausted but color had returned to her face. She and Ann were smiling ear to ear. It was raining outside but wow was the sun shining inside that tent. Ann decided the two of them were going back to the hotel together, no way they were going back without each other. After some stretching and getting some hydration that was sorely needed we worked our way back to everyone else.”
The cutoff for participants accepted into Boston 2016 was 2 minutes 30 seconds less than the published BQ time. It’s yet to be determined whether her 2 minute 22 seconds will be good enough to earn her a trip to Boston in 2017 but she earned a BQ and that can never be taken away from her. Regarding her BQ for 2017 in Louisville Missy says, “I don’t think it was until Ann and Ed found us that it sunk in that I had achieved my BQ. I’m still struggling with the fact that I am 8 seconds off of the time allowed into Boston for last year but that’s what the Last Chance BQ is for right?” You have to love her attitude! She’s going to crush it as Last Chance in September.
It was time to celebrate!
When Ed got her home that Sunday evening Missy was brought to tears by a home decorated in blue & yellow to represent Boston. Her wonderful children made sure mom knew how proud they were of her amazing accomplishment. When she returned to school on Monday she brought her medal to show the kids who bring her a daily smile. She may not have crossed the finish line first but she sure won that day!
I am so proud of my Running Mate… my Friend! I feel so blessed to have been a part of her journey for the 12 weeks leading up to Louisville yet more grateful for a the never-ending friendship that has developed.
A couple more thoughts from her Running Mates:
“Her strength as a person and a runner is contagious. Missy just keeps running no matter the amount of miles or conditions.”
“I’ve only witnessed a heroic act of sports valor on TV until seeing Missy’s Louisville marathon run. I will always remember her superhuman courage & graciousness during time of dire circumstances.”
“Missy exudes strength, sincerity and kindness and it is an honor to know and run with her. I am inspired by her most recent achievement in Louisville and hope to follow in her footsteps (which means I need to get faster )!!!”
“Whenever I see Missy I see a smile on her face. Missy has a positive impact wherever she goes.”
Stay Awesome Missy!