- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
For Colleen O’Hare, an old adage rings truer than ever. “One person can make a difference,” she said.
She’s been training to run Monday in the Boston Marathon. The race has a qualifying time, and if prospective runners don’t meet that requirement, they may still join the race by running for a charity. O’Hare is a Boston-area native who now lives here, in California, and is a program manager for a military contractor here. She’s running for a charity team supporting Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“At 48, I just hope to finish,” O’Hare said. This will be her fifth Boston Marathon, and the first held since the bombings that took place during the event last year. So, O’Hare said she’s running for the spirit of resilience. She’s running in hopes of helping people shape their future, and she’s running to honor of one of the biggest difference-makers in her life.
Her husband, Lt. Cmdr. Raymond Edward O’Hare, died July 11, 2000, when his T-38 Talon trainer jet crashed at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Ray O’Hare, 33, was copilot on that flight, with Lt. Cmdr. Gareth Rietz, also killed in the crash. The two were serving with the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.
“He was super, super smart,” she said. He was a man of faith. An athlete with hopes of becoming an astronaut. The couple met as students at Harvard University in 1985. They married in 1992. And by the time they were living at Pax River, they had three young children, 4, 3 and a 10-month-old.
While raising their children, the O’Hares also had been training to run a race. One parent would watch the kids, and the other would work on building their endurance for the Hood to Coast relay, scheduled that August, just a month after his death.
After her husband died, Colleen O’Hare had a “big decision” to make — whether to run, despite her loss.
O’Hare did run, and her team called themselves “Missing Man Fly By,” a nod to the formation that Navy pilots fly when one of their own has died.
Through the years, O’Hare said, she has continued running. It’s a time for her to sort out her thoughts, or push through tough times.
“I hope people see what I’m doing —that I inspire them to do something similar, whatever it is in their life,” she said.
“I want to be there for her,” said O’Hare’s daughter, Elizabeth O’Hare, 17, who along with her sister launched a campaign on Facebook to support her mother’s efforts, which include raising funds for a charity team for the upcoming marathon. “We’re all or none people.”
“I’m glad she’s doing it,” said Katie O’Hare, 18. “I think definitely going out with five [marathons] before 50, I think that’s great. It’s a mental and physical goal.”
When she heard about the marathon bombing last year, Colleen O’Hare said, “At first, I was really angry. I felt like they messed with my city. And, they messed with my race.”
So, she committed to raising $12,000 for Brigham and Women’s Hospital, whose doctors rushed to save victims of the bombing suffering from injuries similar to those U.S. military personnel have faced on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her team of about 120 runners have pledged to raise about $600,000 for the hospital.
O’Hare will owe her share regardless of how she fares, and is collecting funds through June 1. “It’s 100 percent tax-deductible,” she said. “And, oh, by the way, if you have a business that wants to sponsor me ... that would be a huge blessing.”
O’Hare held a fundraiser Tuesday night at Sweet Frog and Potbelly Sandwich Shop in California. The hospital also has done similar work for Wounded Warriors — an issue that resonates with O’Hare.
“I didn’t get into this wanting to get into debt,” O’Hare said at the frozen yogurt shop, buzzing with supporters. So far, she’s raised about $4,000. “But I was willing to if that’s what it took for me to run.”