The Marathon By Kerry SheeranTef/ea

The Marathon by Kerry Sheeran tef/ea

                A true story


Ocean State Press

THE MARATHON IS A NON-FICTION NOVEL THAT TACKLES EXTREMES IN LONG-DISTANCE RUNNING, MARRIAGE, PARENTING AND FAITH.  WHEN THE SHEERANS' PREMATURE BABY IS BORN WITH SEVERE COMPLICATIONS - INCLUDING TEF/EA - THE ENTIRE FAMILY SPENDS MORE THAN 4 LONG MONTHS IN THE NICU AT BOSTON CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL.  AS THEIR DAUGHTER CLINGS TO LIFE, THE SHEERANS MUST FACE THEIR WORST NIGHTMARES HEAD ON.  FROM PATIENT ADVOCACY, TO QUESTIONING THEIR FAITH IN GOD, TO LEARNING TO LISTEN AND TRUST THEIR OWN INTUITION - THEIR JOURNEY AS PARENTS OF A CRITICALLY ILL CHILD IS PAVED WITH INSPIRATION AND HOPE - AND GUIDED BY A MOTHER'S INNER VOICE.  NOT YOUR AVERAGE BOOK ABOUT THE BOSTON MARATHON, THE MARATHON​ EXPOSES THE HEART AND SOUL BEHIND ONE FAMILY'S DESPERATE ATTEMPT TO MAKE IT TO BOSTON BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE.


TEF/EA = tracheo-esophageal fistula/esophageal atresia.



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A Preview of THE MARATHON



Chapter 1

The Letter


“ARE YOU SURE you have everything, babe?” She followed him around the house rattling off question after question. The more she asked, the more he panicked.  Why does she do this?  he wondered.  Every time he was rushing to get out, no matter where he was going, she’d start in.  Having been on hundreds of business trips and vacations, the world traveler in him bristled. After all, he’d made it to and from all of his destinations without any major catastrophes.  He was a grown man, 35-years-old and counting.  So for God sakes, why does she have to keep pressing?  “Did you make a list, hun?” she asked.  Arrrgh!  Here we go, he thought, The LIST question.  If only she knew that some people had the mental capacity to remember what they need to pack without bullet points and sub categories.  Lists were bush league.  

​ She was talking to a guy who spent the past nine months of his life preparing for this very day.  Every step, every tear, every drop of sweat had landed him in this moment.  And as usual, she was making him second-guess himself.  Unzipping his bag, he furiously dug through it, hardly even paying attention to what he was looking for.  His heart was beating faster and he knew if he didn’t leave the house that very minute, things would begin to unravel.  He zipped his bag closed. 

The boys climbed on the couch, hoping to get the perfect Superman leap onto him.  “Good luck, Daddy!” his older son giggled.  “See you at the party!” 

His wife hadn’t stopped.  She bustled around the kitchen, peering under stacks of newspapers and opening and slamming every drawer within reach.  Time was running out; he had to go.  The phone rang again.  Another good-luck-wish going to voicemail, he assumed. Tom just couldn’t talk to anyone else.  It was time to get into the zone.  

Peeling his sons off his back, he unzipped his bag for the last time.  Rummaging through it, he took a final inventory: several tiny packets of GU energy gel, two pairs of socks, his favorite shorts, one long sleeved shirt, one stick of Body Glide, four power bars, a water bottle, his wallet and his phone.  But wait? His hands tapped his chest, then fumbled their way to the top of his head where they narrowly missed knocking off a brand new pair of polarized sunglasses. Good, he thought, I have my shades. 

Returning to the big dig, he smiled when he got to the bottom of the bag and found his running sneakers.  There they are, he thought.  The only accessories he would really need for the next twelve hours.  The two things that would take him down the valleys, up the hills and past all of his inhibitions.  His green eyes locked on the matching pair.  When he finally blinked, he zipped up his bag with authority and threw it over his shoulder.  No more second-guessing, he thought, it’s game time.  

After kissing his boys, he made his way over to his wife.  She had finally stopped buzzing around and was ready to join him in his moment.  “You know you can do this,” she said, wrapping her arms around his neck. “You can do this.” Her kiss was soft and a little longer then usual.  Her eyes were honest.  Their assurance was starting to rub off on him.  He gave her one more squeeze.  As he headed for the front door, he turned around to wave goodbye.  “You can do this,” she repeated, “but not without my help!” 


His face dropped.  Shaking his head, Tom let out a long, deep breath and walked across the room. He growled as he snatched his racing bib out of his wife’s hands.  Her smile was wicked.  Few things gave her more pleasure then moments like this.  Why’d she have to do that?  Today of all days?  he wondered.  A smile cracked across his face as he shut the door. 

It was a crisp Monday on April 20, 2009.  The kind of day that could convince you spring is right around the corner.  Having been a New Englander for fifteen years, however, Tom knew better than to believe that.  The wind was blowing slightly from the south.  Just enough, he thought, to get me through Wellesley. 

He pictured the entire route in his head again.  It had been six weeks since his practice run and although he’d only gotten as far as mile 21, he had a pretty good idea about which parts would be the toughest.  Telling himself to stop, he erased the course from his head and unrolled the window. 

Downtown Providence was passing by on his right.  Providence Place Mall, The Cheesecake Factory, the State House all standing tall - perhaps even saluting him as he made his way through the capitol city of Rhode Island in less than fifteen minutes.  Making good time on the road always gave him an unnecessary high.  Sixty minutes to go, he thought. 

Tom was well acquainted with the ride to Boston.  It was impossible not to think how his wife would boast: “I could do this drive in my sleep.”  Luckily, it had never come to that.  He thought about what a pleasure it was to be driving up there with happy anticipation, rather then ungodly dread.  The fear of the unknown was absent from his head.  The anxiety had untied its terrible grip from around his heart. This day, he thought, is different Today is about keeping promises.  Today is for her. His shoulders lifted and loosened up.  He hung his arm out the window and felt the breeze. 

Tom’s phone rang.  He remembered that the last time he’d seen it, it was buried among his necessities.  His trip was coming to an end, and the fact that he hadn’t picked it up or made one call in the last seventy-five minutes was bewildering.  If anyone loved talking on the phone, it was Tom.  He could be in the middle of a colonoscopy prep and he’d find someone interested enough to chat with him about it.  Of course, he wasn’t the only man with this gift.  Mike, his college buddy, would dial him several times a week just to report the exact lengths and widths of his one-year-old’s “turds”. 


​Tom’s wife eventually learned there was no need to keep a journal, when instead she could listen to him entertain family and friends with stories of their recent adventures over and over and over.  By his tenth re-telling, it was etched in her mind forever. 

The fact that Tom had been so focused that he hadn’t even looked at his mobile device the entire drive reaffirmed his commitment to today’s event.  By the third ring he was shoulder-deep in his bag when he spotted the light from his phone underneath a white envelope.  The letter wasn’t something he’d noticed the last time he had rummaged through.  He pulled it out and turned it over.  On the front it read ‘For you, Tom’.  His wife’s handwriting was unmistakable.  Beautiful and sharp, he often thought it could rival Palatino Linotype in a font-to-font challenge.  He glanced at his phone as it rang for the fourth time. It was her. 

“Are you there yet?” she asked, sounding as nervous as he felt. 

“I’m here,” he answered. “What’s in this envelope?” 

“Oh, good.  You found it.  Don’t read the whole thing yet.  I wrote it for you,” she said.  He could hear her smiling.  She hadn’t done this in a long time.  When they were first married, he’d find little love notes in his suitcase while away on business.  But as the years rolled by, the frequency of the letters dwindled.  To hold one in his hand was a rare treat.  “Why can’t I read the whole thing?” he wanted to know.  “You’ll see,” she said.  “Look for me later on, okay?  I love you.”  Click.  She was never really a phone person, which might explain why most calls made by Kerry left the recipient feeling important.
Finding his group was much easier then Tom had imagined it would be.  Boston Children’s Hospital had chosen a glaring yellow and blue-checkered print for its team’s running attire.  Hard to miss, a sea of similarly-clad runners stretched their legs and bounced around the parking lot in front of buses waiting to bring them to the starting line.    Suddenly things were becoming a lot more real.  Tom was dressed like these folks.  And just like them, he had raised thousands of dollars from family members, friends, and even clients. People hadn’t simply made direct donations to the hospital; they had funded him and his cause.  And not only had Tom asked for their sponsorship, he had guaranteed a final result: In return for their generosity he would run The Boston Marathon. 

What was I thinking? he wondered.  Am I crazy?  Seriously, how has it come to this?  Tom was so far in that the term “turning back” wasn’t within the realm of possibility. Not to mention that most of his sponsors were going to want to know how long it took him to finish.  So now, not only was it alarming that he’d committed himself to run 26.2 miles, but he also had to do it in a respectable amount of time.  And regardless of what he had told people, Tom wanted a good time.  His veins pulsated faster and faster.  Good, he thought, the adrenaline will carry me through the first ten.

“Do you wanna borrow this, brother?”  A bearded man handed him black chalk.  It was customary for runners to write their bib number on one leg, and their personal inspiration on the other.  Having seen this in pictures and on television in years past, Tom looked forward to taking part in this particular ritual.

Gratefully, he accepted the chalk, then pulled the number out of his bag and began to copy “25519” down his left shin. That, he thought, looks cool. He paused.  A vision of her dark brown eyes invaded his thoughts.  The rest of her face came into focus:  her beautiful nose, her piercing dimples.  Her delicate beauty consumed him.  The scent of her hair somehow filled his nostrils.  In an instant, he was relieved of the intense pressures he had felt only seconds ago.  With a swig of emotion he wrote the words “Mighty Emma” down his right shin.  THAT, he thought, looks angelic.

Considering how many runners were on the bus, it was relatively quiet.  Finally, he thought, a chance to open the white envelope. A lump swelled in his throat before he even read one word, as his eyes were drawn to the small picture at the top.  A picture taken twelve months earlier when life was a lot different. He began to read:

My Dear Tom,

The marathon is finally here!  Today’s run will be painless when measured with the long journey your heart has endured.  As you begin each mile, read and reflect on each of the challenges we‘ve been faced with. Once that mile is complete, it might seem effortless in comparison.



He stopped.  “Mile One” began the next line, and he wasn’t about to spoil this newfound treasure.