Man honors late mother during Boston Marathon

Man honors mother during Boston Marathon
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 7:52 PM EDT
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CATLETTSBURG, Ky. (WSAZ) - The Boston Marathon returned this year, drawing thousands of runners to the area.

Among the 30,000 runners was Neil Johnson from Catlettsburg.

Everyone runs the Boston Marathon for a different reason.

For Johnson, it started back in 2013 after the Boston Marathon bombing over the radio.

Johnson’s said his heart broke as he loved Boston’s sports teams, the city, and the atmosphere the marathon brought to the area.

He vowed then one day, he would run the marathon.

So, he started training and competing in different races around the region.

Johnson and his mother, Sally, ran several races together.

“We ran together to prove to one another we still had it. She was my hero,” Johnson said.

Johnson hit the streets of Catlettsburg to begin training for the Boston Marathon in January 2022.

Johnson and his mom dreamed of running the race together.

However, Sally passed away from stage four liver cancer before the pair could run together.

“Sometimes people don’t understand what your body gives. The pounding, the mileage, and the love every time you think about them. During that moment, it’s like giving life to someone else for that moment.”

Boxed in the start line, elbow to elbow, Johnson says the feeling at the starting line was indescribable.

“It was electric. It was ecstatic. It was the experience of a lifetime,” Johnson said. “My Mom and Dad had the best seats in the house.”

For 26.2 miles, Johnson honored his mom every step of the way.

“There’s a thing called heartbreak hill at mile marker 19. It crushes even the best pros’ spirits if you don’t take off right. But my vertigo slowed me down and prepared me for the perfect launch. I didn’t even feel the heartbreak because the only heartbreak I had was of my mom.”

And as he crossed the finish line, Sally was there in spirit.

“I untwisted my cross around my neck that carried my mom’s ashes. I let them off in the air. I let her know, hey, Mom, you’re here with me,” Johnson said.

Johnson believed it was fitting to run the marathon this year in Sally’s honor, as her favorite color was purple. Each year the Celebration Jacket changes colors. This year, it was purple.

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