The coach’s first longer training run of 14 miles fell on her team’s winter training trip in Florida, so after Muri disappeared to run for a few hours, she told her team about her plans to run the marathon.
One member of her team was also making plans to get involved with the marathon. Sophomore Brett Biebelberg had applied to work as an EMT in the Boston Marathon medical unit. After a competitive application process, Biebelberg earned a slot on the medical sweep team.
Biebelberg knew that Muri was running, and she knew that he was volunteering, so they planned to meet up at some point on Marathon Monday.
But on March 14, everything changed. Muri was diagnosed with breast cancer and was scheduled to begin chemotherapy a couple of weeks later. Over spring break, Muri missed practice for the first time all year for a follow-up doctor’s appointment. A few days later, she told the team about her diagnosis. Recounting the team meeting that day, freshman Ian Meyer remembers that she maintained her poise and even her sense of humor when she shared the news.
“She told us she might need to relax the no buzz-cut policy on the team because she was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Meyer said. “Everyone was just shocked because she didn’t drop a beat in saying it.”
After the announcement, her team members lamented the fact that she could no longer run the marathon.
But Muri never ruled it out. She told her oncologist that she was training for the marathon and asked if she could still do it. The oncologist told Muri that for most people, the answer would be an automatic no, but for her they would base the decision on her response to the first two weeks of treatment. So Muri kept on training.
After the first cycle of treatment, and Muri received the green light.
THE LAST 500
Five hundred meters is a distance Muri knows well from the water. It means that the end is in sight, and it is time for a sprint to the finish.
As Muri learned, the 500 meters at the end of a marathon is very different. It is less of a sprint than an absolute last-ditch effort as a runner taps into that final bit of energy to will oneself across the finish line. It is also the point when runners most feed off the energy and support of the crowds.
As Muri made the turn onto Hereford Street, she heard one of her freshman team members, Matthew O’Connor, shouting, “Here she comes, here she comes!” Up ahead, the rest of her team awaited in their knee-high pink socks, holding signs that said “Last 500” and “Sit Up and Go.”
“After seeing them, I knew I wasn’t going to walk anymore,” Muri said.
As soon as Meyer found out Muri planned to go ahead with the race, he started making arrangements. The freshman set up a Facebook group to communicate with the team.
Meyer also planned the logistics of making signs and getting to the finish line on Monday afternoon. He coordinated with Muri’s husband and set up BAA text alerts to make sure they didn’t miss her.
Harvard Coach Breaking MoldIf only rowing were a more mainstream sport, perceptions about female coaches might begin to change because Linda Muri has proven sports knowledge is not restricted to those with Y-chromosomes.
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