DEDHAM, Mass. — Kim Hermesch crossed the finish line of the virtual Boston Marathon hand-in-hand with her two of her teammates.
“The team gave me the opportunity to feel like my grief and my loss was valid and valuable, and that my brother was valuable and that he was really fighting two illnesses at the same time,” she said.
Hermesch ran on the American Liver Foundation Charity Team in honor of her brother, Chris. He was just 43 years old when he died of liver failure.
“I think [there is] so much stigma attached to liver disease and my brother was an alcoholic,” she said.
Hermesch is in her second year as principal at Oakdale Elementary School in Dedham. Despite the many challenges she faced this year, she was determined to complete the Boston Marathon, which was first postponed and then canceled for the first time in its 124-year history, due to the pandemic.
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The iconic marathon was offered as a virtual event. Runners were required to cover the marathon distance in one continuous run between September 5 and 14.
“I don’t think there are words that can describe it. It’s been a healing process for my family and me, and to be able to turn something so difficult and painful into something so powerful and positive for others,” she said.
Over the years Hermesch and her team raised more than $3.5 million for the American Liver Foundation. But for Hermesch running the marathon has been priceless and worth every step.
“I think being able to give back to that community and to be able to speak openly and honestly about substance abuse as an issue and take the stigma and shame out of that and give people the space to feel and have community has been really an important part of this journey for me,” she said.
The 2020 Virtual Boston Marathon was Hermesch’s final Boston Marathon. She said there are only so many positions on her charity team, so she would like to give someone else the opportunity next year.
The Boston Athletic Association says about 20,000 runners will have completed the virtual marathon. That’s about two-thirds of a typical field.
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