6 Weeks Later: How Life Has Changed
This year’s Boston Marathon was a race many runners were happy to put behind them, but for several women who unexpectedly finished at the top of the women’s field, April 16, 2018 was one of the greatest days in their running careers.
These off-the-radar runners were suddenly thrust into the spotlight, as people clamored to learn more about the amazing women who fought through epic weather to beat some of the world’s best marathoners.
“It’s been pretty crazy with all the interviews and all the attention, but it’s been a great experience,” says Jessica Chichester, a 31-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y. who finished in fifth place.
Controversy over prize money rules put Chichester at the center of the media’s attention in the days after Boston. Because she didn’t start with the elite women, she was not eligible to receive the $15,000 prize money typically awarded to the fifth-place finisher. But as public support swelled in her favor, the Boston Athletic Association decided earlier this month to award Chichester the prize money. Two other women who finished in the top 15 and did not start with the elite runners will also receive the prize money designated for their places.
“I was ecstatic,” Chichester recalls. “When [the BAA] finally did send the email, I wasn’t expecting it.” Chichester, who works full-time as a nurse practitioner in primary care, says the money will go a long way. “A lot of it will go towards running expenses, of course,” she says. “Other than that, I will save it for some kind of long-term investment, like property someday.”
Her incredible finish has also led to new race opportunities. Although Chichester didn’t plan on returning to racing so soon, she ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon earlier this month after being invited by New York Road Runners. She ran her second-fastest half-marathon time ever, despite her legs not feeling fully recovered, and she plans to run a couple more NYRR races as she gears up for a busy summer of training. In September, she is set to run the Berlin Marathon, where she wants to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials and run under 2:45. Ideally, she would like to run sub-2:40.
“I’m taking myself more seriously as a super competitive runner [since Boston],” she says. “It’s not delusional to think I can compete with the professional runners.”
Second-place finisher Sarah Sellers says her Boston performance has also boosted her confidence. “It’s been very motivating,” says the 26-year-old from Tucson, Ariz. “I feel like it validates a lot of work I’ve done over the years. The whole experience has given me faith in myself and the principles I’ve tried to live by.” So much so that Sellers, who works as a nurse anesthetist, plans to adjust her work schedule so she can focus on training and resting. As a nurse anesthetist, she spends most of the day on her feet in operating rooms. “That’s something I need to work on—recovering well,” Sellers says. “And to do that I need to decrease work hours.”
Boston has also connected Sellers in new ways to the elite running community and her growing legion of supporters. After Olympian Kara Goucher announced on Twitter that Sellers was nowhere to be found on the social media site, Sellers joined. To poke fun at her lack of celebrity, Sellers created the Twitter handle @SarahWhoSellers. In the past month, she has amassed more than 4,700 followers.
Like Chichester, Sellers has been presented with new running opportunities since Boston. In addition to being invited to prominent races, she recently secured a sponsorship with the running shoe company Altra. “If you told me the night before Boston that I would be looking at sponsorships after Boston, I wouldn’t have believed you,” she says.
Canadian Olympian Krista DuChene, a 41-year-old from Brantford, Ontario, was already a sponsored and seasoned marathoner when she crossed the finish line in third place, but wasn’t prepared for all the attention that followed. “The number of interviews and media requests was definitely overwhelming,” DuChene says. On top of that, the mother of three returned home and jumped right back into her kids’ busy schedules. She also works as a public speaker and registered dietitian. As for the $40,000 she is set to receive for third place, DuChene plans to give 10 percent to her church, perhaps get herself a new van with working air conditioning and save the rest for her children’s education.
“I can’t say that my life has drastically changed since Boston,” DuChene says. “The support and messages from people, the media and speaking requests has increased, but my day-to-day life is the same. My goals are the same.” That includes qualifying in the marathon for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. “If I can still keep at it and make it there at the old age of 43, it’s another way to show we shouldn’t set limits for ourselves,” she says.
But not all of the top women are ready to focus on their next running challenge. After her stunning performance in Boston, fourth-place finisher Rachel Hyland is content to take a step back for now. “After this one, I feel pretty good about taking some down time,” Hyland says. These days, life outside of running has been keeping her busy. She is currently moving from Andover, Mass. to San Francisco, where she will start in a new teaching position in the fall. In June, she will be taking a group of students to Argentina. “I’m not interested to get back into serious training anytime soon,” says the 31-year-old Spanish instructor. “I’m trying to figure out what my next goal will be.”