Everyday Athlete: Bridget O’Brien, Muscular Dystrophy Association: Team Momentum

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On Sunday, October 13, Bridget O’Brien will be running her ninth career marathon at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. She has been running for 15 years and has PB of 3:46.

O’Brien joined the cross-country team freshman year at Oak Park River Forest High School to get involved and meet more people before school started. She never had very great hand-eye coordination but had always been a swimmer. Once she learned the swim team had morning practice and knowing she was not a morning person, she joined cross-country and has been running ever since.

While neither of O’Brien’s parents were runners themselves, they were a great influence and support system throughout her career. Their encouragement has allowed her to continue to do something she loves. Her mother and father would show up at high school races, are always in Chinatown on marathon day, and check in regularly to see how her training is going.

“They have made running part of me, a part that I hope never goes away,” O’Brien reflects.

O’Brien is a key member of the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s [MDA] Team Momentum, and will be fundraising for the charity during her training for the Chicago Marathon. MDA’s mission is to transform the lives of people affected by neuromuscular disease and to free families from the life-threatening effects of muscular dystrophy and muscle-debilitating diseases today.

“My family has been involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Association for almost my entire life, as my cousin Johnny was diagnosed with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy when he was very young,” O’Brien says. “MDA offered support and a community to our family and in turn we volunteer all the time to give back.”

Her first marathon with MDA Team Momentum began when an employee of the Muscular Dystrophy Association heard from one of her family members at a fundraiser that she was running the marathon. The MDA staff member was trying to start an endurance running program and O’Brien was interested in turning her bib into a charity bib.

“I had no idea what to expect, I had trained so hard and when I crossed the finish line, I had this moment where my eyes filled with tears,” O’Brien says. “I thought about all the miles, all the money I had raised to help one of the most important people in my life and all the love my family and friends had given to me during the training season; it was an amazing and overwhelming moment that I will never forget.”

O’Brien would love to improve on her time from the last few years but most importantly, she wants to use the race as a platform to raise money and awareness about MDA. She hopes she can help impact another family who is battling this diagnosis.

“I am a fundraising mentor for other runners on the MDA team. Asking people to give you money is not the easiest thing so I jump in to help them brainstorm,” she continues. “I am a member of the volunteer board and support the MDA staff as needed to ensure Team Momentum is growing and thriving.”

The most difficult challenge of her training is prioritizing getting her miles in every morning, even when she wants to sleep.

“Juggling training, work and personal life can be challenging and I know if I don’t run in the morning, the other things often win for the rest of the day,” she says. “This is especially hard when I am on the road for work and the days are long.”

Aside from the finish line, O’Brien is most looking forward to seeing her fan club in Chinatown on marathon day; they always watch from the same spot with a big crowd of family and friends. This spot is ideal, because as she starts to hit the wall around mile 19, she knows the most enthusiastic and supportive group is there every year, rain or shine, hot or cold waiting for her with open arms and cheers of encouragement.

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