Run, Mrs. O’Connell, Run

Julie O’Connell crosses the finish line, raising $5,000 for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

For many people, a top bucket list item is running a marathon. For others, it is running and completing said marathon. Julie O’Connell is the assistant principal of St. Aidan School and she recently competed in, and completed the New York City Marathon.

O’Connell, who only started running in 2014, generally ran about five miles at a time, but loved the clarity she experienced when she ran. In 2015, she started to train for a half marathon and began competing. As O’Connell began to consider competing in the New York City Marathon in late 2016, her mother-in-law passed away after an almost five-year battle with ovarian cancer. O’Connell’s memories of how the hospital and doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center helped to extend her mother-in-law’s stage four diagnosis into almost five years of additional life was the incentive to choose “Fred’s Team” as her charity because it exclusively raises money for Memorial Sloan Kettering.

In July of 2017, the mom of three busy young children, began a moderate training schedule. Between July 17 and Nov. 3, she ran a total of 450 miles, running weekdays at 5 a.m. and saving her 2 to 3 hour long runs for Saturday. Through O’Connell’s social media account, family and friends, the St. Aidan school community held a big paint night during the summer of 2017. O’Connell received pledges for almost $5,000 for Fred’s Team and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

As the marathon approached, O’Connell shared her plans with the students at St. Aidan’s and shared the app which would allow everyone from the school to track her progress in real time and know exactly where she was throughout the entire 26.2 miles. O’Connell set a goal to finish in four-and-a-half hours and achieved it with a 4:25:12 finish time despite the rainy weather.

The Monday following the marathon, O’Connell arrived at St. Aidan’s to posters, pictures, cards, flowers and lots of excitement from the students. She used the opportunity to share how amazing the experience was and how important it is to set your goals high and never give up. Students loved seeing her medal and she even wore her finisher jacket to school that day.

“It was truly amazing to share the experience with all of them,” said O’Connell.

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