Donna Ferguson competing at the New York City Marathon in 2012. Ferguson returned to the NYC Marathon again in 2014

Sookie competes in Boston marathon

Despite setbacks from a serious hip injury and breast cancer, local runner let nothing stop her passion

It was March 6, and Donna Ferguson was running her fastest 5K race ever.

As she approached the 4.5K mark of the Bazan Bay 5K, her leg “just went” and she thought, “Oh, no, that doesn’t feel good.”

Ferguson, 64, hobbled to the finish line and since then has worked with a physiotherapist, chiropractor, massage therapist, even an acupuncturist to get back on the road toward this year’s Boston Marathon.

Two weeks ago she received a modified running program in the hopes of being able to run the most heralded marathon in the world, but as she began her workouts she realized her damaged hip still needed recovery time.

Now her only option is to walk the marathon.

“It’s the most frustrating because a week before it happened, I thought I was ready for the marathon,” said Ferguson, an East Sooke resident.

Ferguson participated in the Boston Marathon once before – in 2012.

The April weather in Boston is usually ideal for a marathon with cool, damp, gray days and an average temperature of 13 Celsius, but in 2012 runners faced the worst type of weather for a marathon: hot, with temperatures up to 32 C degrees and sunny, cloudless skies.

Runners had the opportunity for the first time in marathon history to defer the entry, but Ferguson decided to run the race. She finished in 5:10.02, well above her expected time of 4:15.00.

“Just to be [in Boston] was worth it. It didn’t matter about the time,” Ferguson said.

“My husband went as a spectator and he couldn’t believe the atmosphere there.”

And although the 2012 marathon was a thrill, Ferguson wanted to return with the hopes of running a faster time.

She returned to Victoria to begin training again and qualified for Boston in the New York City Marathon in 2014. She was all set to take on Boston in 2015 when a health issue stopped her in her tracks: breast cancer.

It was January 2015 and training was going well when she was diagnosed. She underwent surgery and there was hope she could still run the marathon.

Her hopes were dashed when she was told a month later that she would have to undergo both chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

She is now clear of cancer, and was able to defer, almost unheard of in competitive running, her marathon entry to this year.

Again she was well on her way to take on the marathon when her hip injury flared up, but she remains optimistic of the opportunity to participate in the marathon when so many others can’t.

“I know the thrill of it when you’re there. Even if I have to walk, I will still be in that atmosphere. It’s a celebration,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson hasn’t always been a runner. She started about eight years ago after participating in a local exercise boot camp, and then when her brother participated in the old Royal Victoria Marathon half marathon race.

She walked her first marathon in Victoria in 2008, finishing at 6:35:00 that was followed up in 2009 when she did a walk-run marathon with a time of 5:24:06. She took the full jump into marathon racing recording a time of 4:23:18 and qualified for Boston for the first time.

Ferguson does most of her training on a treadmill, but runs every Saturday with friends Glenn Hamilton and Jenn Lu. Some of their favourite running spots are along the Oak Bay and Victoria waterfronts and the Galloping Goose trail near Luxton.

“I enjoy running with other people. It’s very motivating,” she said.

Ferguson was hoping this year’s run in Boston would be her last marathon, especially  since she was attempting to break a time of under four hours.

“It’s a reason why it’s a little disappointing,” she said.

“I think it’s time to give my body a really good chance to recover and from there … maybe there will be another marathon.”

editor@sookenewsmirror.com