Going into her third year of university, a young Cynthia Lays was curious where her parents were going one morning.
It turned out Fred and Cheryl were heading to the Jimmy Hawboldt Road Race in Westville for the 5-mile run. Being a typical young person, Cynthia said she was a little cocky and said she would have no problem running that with her parents.
It turned out she was wrong – she finished last.
That didn’t deter her, it just helped spark her passion for running.
Now 21 years later, the Hamilton, Ont., resident is graduated from university, married (now Lays Campanaro), a mother and will be running the Boston Marathon for the first time.
This isn’t the first time she has qualified, but 10 years ago when she qualified and registered it was before she realized that she and her husband were expecting their first child.
“After we found out we were expecting I knew I didn’t want to run Boston five or six months pregnant, so I decided to back out,” she said.
In the following years she had two more children, which took her away from her long-distance running, although she never completely left the sport. She ran multiple 5k, 10k and half marathons, but it wasn’t until 2013 that she went back to running a full marathon. She finished the Mississauga Marathon with a time of 3:14:27, good enough to finish first in her category (female 40-49) and qualify for Boston.
When she qualified she decided it was time that she attended. In the meantime the Boston Marathon bombings happened, which meant her husband said she wasn’t going.
“We talked about it and he said ‘well I guess you’re not going,’ which I replied to saying ‘yeah I am,’” said Cynthia with a laugh. “When I knew my uncle (Jim Lays) was running this year it was the icing on the cake.”
The pair will run side-by-side on Monday, April 21, something both are looking forward to. It was always a hope of Cynthia’s that she would run Boston with her father Fred, who passed away in 2002, but running it with her uncle Jim will be just as special.
“It will be as close to running it with my dad as it could be,” she said. “That means a lot to me. It will be emotional anyway because of what happened last year, but it will be even more special running with my uncle.”
Jim, who will be running the Boston Marathon for the third time, hasn’t been back since 2006. He said there were a few factors that made him decide to go this year. One was that Cynthia would be participating, while the other was the passing of Pictou County running legend Glenn Chenell this past year.
“Every year I qualified (for Boston) Glen would ask if I was going,” said Jim. “If I said no he would always tell me that if he could qualify he would go. That inspired me to go this year.”
Similar to when Fred and Cheryl ran the 100th anniversary of the Boston Marathon for their 25th wedding anniversary, Cynthia will be going back a few gates to run with her uncle.
“I’ll confidently say I can run a marathon faster than my uncle,” said Cynthia, making a poke at her uncle Jim. “But I want to be there with him on my side for the entire run and enjoy every moment of it.
“We talked a few weeks ago about it and look forward to seeing each other. I was home last summer for a visit, so we went for a run together. It will be fun in Boston.”
Jim said the Boston Marathon is something that is hard to put into words, especially with 36,000 people running it. It’s an experience like no other and he can’t wait to share it with Cynthia.
“It’s an amazing feeling, something that is hard to describe,” he said. “I really don’t know how to describe it.”
From what she has heard it will be exciting and although she is competitive, Cynthia said she plans to race without a watch so she isn’t thinking about her time. She said she wants to enjoy Boston, high five people on the course and soak the entire moment in.
Before he left Jim said he was going to be dedicating this race to Fred, who is sure to be on both their minds for race day on Monday.
“I’m anticipating it’s going to be pretty emotional day on all levels,” said Cynthia. “I know mom wanted to be there, so we’ll be thinking of her too.
“One of the most inspirational photos is mom and dad crossing the finish line together in Boston, so I’ll also be thinking about that while we’re running.”
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