In the 26 days leading up to the Boston Marathon on April 21, ESPNBoston.com will share inspiring stories, detail important logistics and go inside the planning for what promises to be an event like no other in the wake of last year's bombings. There are four days until the race.
She dodged tornadoes in Kansas and ran with a norovirus in West Virginia, but something told Gina Chupka to stop when she was nearing the finish line at a marathon in Holyoke, Mass., last spring. It would've been her 50th marathon in 50 states, a dizzying pursuit the chemist started three years ago, a journey of 100,000 miles by air and a few thousand more by foot.
The 2013 Boston Marathon was supposed to be Chupka's last state, but she was stopped at the final mile when the bombs went off. Finishing in Boston seemed fitting. Chupka, who lives in Golden, Colo., was born and raised in Westfield, Mass., and is a childhood fan of Boston sports. When she got back to her hotel room the day of the bombings, she immediately booked a hotel for the 2014 Boston Marathon, unsure whether she'd be invited back.
So three weeks later, she entered Holyoke, which boasts itself as the United States' 10th-oldest marathon. This would be No. 50 for Chupka. But when she got to Mile 16 or so, she decided that she had to wait for Boston. The news stunned her mom and cousins, who were waiting near the finish line and imploring her to cross. Chupka's mom, Kathy, had been through a lot already. She was waiting for her daughter at the finish line in Boston last year, and was very close to the second bomb. She was OK, but was eager to see her daughter finish her pursuit. Gina said, "Please don't be mad at me," as she saw her relatives near the finish line at Holyoke.
"I don't know ... It's hard to explain, but I just knew I couldn't cross the finish line," she said. "My mom didn't speak to me for probably three or four days. She didn't understand."
In Boston, Chupka will be running for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which provides financial support for cancer patients and their families. Joe and Jen Andruzzi will most likely be waiting for Chupka at the finish in Boston; her parents will not. They decided to take a cruise during this year's marathon.
That's OK with Chupka, who has run everywhere from Abilene, Kansas, to Omaha, Neb., to Maui. She plans to make a quilt out of all of her T-shirts from each state. And maybe she'll write a book.
The website 50statesmarathonclub.com says it has 3,420 members in the United States and 12 other countries. Chupka ran 24 of her marathons in one year, in 2012. But Boston has a very special place in her heart.
"The closer I get [to Boston], the more emotional I get," she said. "I was telling someone, 'I wonder if I'm going to be able to breathe or if my throat is going to close with emotion.'"