OLD SAYBROOK — Elayne Marineau has run many, many miles, including participation in the Hartford Half Marathon and the Hartford Marathon in 2019, yet no run has been as much fun as the 123 miles she logged in honor of the class of 2020 graduates.
The impetus for logging all these miles was to make graduation extra special for the class of 2020, says the Old Saybrook mom.
“This was absolutely the most fun run goal that I’ve ever set for myself, with more emotion attached to it than any other run I’ve done, since it was for my son and his class during a time that they had so much taken away,” says this avid runner. “I was excited to do something to honor each kid. They each got a mile from me.”
This petite, athletic 44-year-old started her personal journey on Saturday, May 16, running every single day right up until the morning of graduation, Tuesday, June 16.
“It was a really fun morning and I felt very accomplished that morning,” she recalls, thinking of about reaching her goal. “I was like, ‘Phew, I did it.’”
Her regular runs amount to about 25 miles per week, yet as she watched COVID-19 interrupt senior year for her son, Michael Almada, and all his peers, she knew she wanted to do something for them.
“I’ve known these kids since they were 7 years old,” she says. “This class is such a great class of kids and I wanted to do something that would honor them.
“I thought, ‘What a cool way to honor Michael’s class.’ ”
Marineau admits that after all the uncertainty about graduation, the drive-in ceremony and parade through town was “spectacular.”
“I can’t tell you how many people lined the street of Old Saybrook. The town just showed up for these kids, it was really touching,” she recalls. “I had tears in my eyes, I’m like, ‘This is such a cool town.’”
Elayne Marineau gave a shout-out to her husband, Tristan Marineau for supporting her running project.
“He was always my biggest fan, my biggest cheerleader,” she says.
She adds that he would nudge her to get out of bed early to get in the miles.
“I told her she was a little bit crazy, at first,” says Tristan Marineau, laughing.
“But I knew she could do it because she’s the kind of person that, honestly, once she gets something in her head, there’s nothing that anyone can do to stop her from completing that,” he adds.
A runner himself, Tristan Marineau joined his wife for about 30 of the 123 total miles. The rest of the miles were completed solo.
“The last week or so it was pretty awesome because you actually saw the finish line and said, ‘Oh, wow. This is definitely possible for her,’” recalls Tristan Marineau.
“I would run 5 miles here, 3 miles there,” Elayne Marineau recalls.
She even signed up for the UCONN Health Half Marathon, which had her training for a 13-mile, half marathon held on Sunday, June 7, after three days of training.
“I love to run, so it was fun for me, but it was also a challenge because it’s a lot of miles in a month,” she says.
“It ended up that I had 23 miles to go and three days left before graduation,” she recalls. “So, I did 9 miles on Sunday, I did 8 miles the next day and I did 6 miles the morning of graduation to finish it.”
Marineau traditionally has specific routes for her runs, but had to vary them in order to accomplish this goal.
Everyday she posted her miles on Facebook, receiving lots of encouragement from her friends, many of whom had graduating seniors.
“They were rooting me on,” says Marineau.
Gina Stewart, along with three other local women, works out with Elayne Marineau. They were all cheering on their friend and fellow fitness fanatic.
“I feel badly for the seniors, this was supposed to be a special year for them and basically she was trying to fill in the gap of making it special for them because they weren’t going to get all the normal things that the senior classes do get,” says Stewart.
“We just thought it was such a heartwarming story that would bring other people inspiration and hope during the challenging times,” she adds.
When Marineau finished the miles, making a short stop, at mile 4, for a photo op at Old Saybrook High School, she felt an incredible sense of accomplishment.
“It was awesome,” she says. “It was so awesome and my husband actually came on that run with me.
“He does a lot of running with me, but not quite as much as I do,” she adds. “He came on a few of them, but that last one he was definitely there.”