One week before the 122nd annual Boston Marathon, Somerville residents Kaitlyn Kiely and Matt Wetherbee on Monday crossed the finish line on Boylston Street to the sounds of cowbells and vibrant cheers.
Kiely, who ran the marathon last April, had just pushed her quadriplegic boyfriend of six years the entire 26.2-mile route from Hopkinton to Copley Square.
“It’s a lot harder pushing 170 pounds up some of those hills,” said Kiely. “But I finished. I wanted [Wetherbee] to feel what it’s like and I’ve never seen him happier. He doesn’t cry, but he was bawling like a baby [while approaching the finish line].”
Wetherbee, of Marblehead, was a captain on the boys’ basketball and lacrosse teams at Marblehead High School. The 31-year-old suffered a traumatic spinal injury during a basketball game two years ago and has been rehabilitating several days a week at Journey Forward in Canton.
Kiely, 30, raised more than $10,000 for Journey Forward during her marathon run last April. While the couple missed the deadline to be considered as an “Athletes With Disabilities” duo for the official 2018 Marathon, they were able to team up with local company HOTSHOT to raise an additional $25,000 and realize their dream by running the route together.
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“It really is a marathon, just like recovery from a spinal cord injury is,” Wetherbee said at the finish line.
“We wanted to inspire other people who are going through tough situations and show that anything is possible if you put your mind to. It was definitely emotional. I’m just so proud of [Kiely] for taking on this and completing. She’s stood by my side during this whole thing and what she did is just incredible.”
After training in bad weather for weeks by pushing a wheelchair laden with 50-pound bags of salt, Kiely set out with Wetherbee from Hopkinton State Park at 9 a.m. Monday.
Running with a police escort, they were joined by more than 20 friends and family members at Heartbreak Hill in Newton and finished at 2:45 p.m. for a time of 5:30, just over an hour longer than Kiely’s time of 4:27 in the 2017 marathon.
They were presented with a $25,000 check from HOTSHOT to benefit Journey Forward, a nonprofit that is part of the Christopher Reeves Foundation Network and works specifically with those living with spinal cord firstname.lastname@example.org.