Former WHS student inspires marathon runners

Kelsey Sommers

girlWhen Katie Lynch suffered a leg injury before the 2001 Boston Marathon, she never contemplated giving up. “I’m an athlete,” she said. “I have to train.”

Throughout her life, Katie had a passion for athletics. In 1992, when she was a junior at Wayland High School, Katie walked 175 feet from the history building to the Commons in order to benefit the Walk for Hunger. “Students got sponsored by the mile,” says Katie’s father, Chris Lynch. “Katie got sponsored by the foot.”

Katie, who was 28 inches tall, was born with a rare form of dwarfism, which kept her in a wheelchair. This, however, did not stop Katie. The 175 foot walk was no easy task, but she was persistent in her training and was able to accomplish her goal. According to Katie’s friend and coach, Dr. Passarini, “Katie wanted to be a part of the pulse of the event. She wanted to participate.” And she did. In high school, Katie was manager of both the wrestling team and the women’s track team. She earned her own varsity jacket.

Katie moved on from Wayland and graduated summa cum laude from Regis College. She worked for Children’s Hospital, a place she had spent much time during her childhood and young adulthood. It was there that she got involved with the Boston Marathon’s patient-runner partnership. One year, Katie was in charge of matching the patients with runners. The next year, Katie decided that she wanted to be on the other side of the starting line, and not as a patient, but rather as a runner. In the 2001 Boston Marathon, Katie started off the race by walking 26.2 feet.

Katie’s personal marathon was an inspiration to many. “I made it, and I know everyone else can too,” said Katie when she crossed the finish line. After Katie passed away in 2002 at the age of 27, it was very much in the minds of her family and friends to start an inspirational event in her honor. In a fitting tribute, this year will be the inaugural year of the Katie Lynch Foundation’s Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon & Purple Shoes Challenge, to take place on May 31st. “The race is about personal challenge and opportunity. It honors Katie’s determination to participate in life as fully as she was able and to open doors so that others could do the same,” says Joan Lynch, Katie’s mother.

Also included in this half marathon is the Katie Lynch Purple Shoes Challenge. Purple is the color of Katie’s custom made shoes, worn when she completed her personal marathon. Anyone with a physical disability between the ages of 12 to 22 is welcome to participate in the event and set their own performance goals. There are five different Purple Shoes Race Events, ranging from 13.1 feet to “The Sixty Minute Ultra Challenge.”

All proceeds from the half marathon will go to The Katie Lynch Foundation to benefit programs at Children’s Hospital and to support education that emphasizes understanding and respect for disabilities. The foundation was established to honor Katie’s conviction that, “every human being is worth it.”

Interested in donating, volunteering, or running?