By Cary Shuman
Shelagh Oâ€™Connell was a two-year captain in cross country at Winthrop High School, one of the stalwart long distance runners in coach Warren MacPhailâ€™s powerful program.
But 26 miles is 26 miles and that was the challenge facing Shelagh in her first-ever run in the Boston Marathon on April 18.
Shelagh became an official entrant this year, running on behalf of the Town Track Club of Charlestown and raising $3,500 for the charity.
Shelagh, 27, trained for the Marathon with her friend, Amanda Tallent, and they ran the course side by side, completing it in five hours.
â€œI have to thank Amandaâ€™s brother-in-law, Robert Noonan, who helped me out big time with receiving my official bib (entry) at the Hines Convention Center,â€ said Shelagh.
Following a stellar cross country and track career at WHS, Shelagh competed for one year at Endicott College before sustaining a foot injury.
â€œI had to give up running competitively in college but I ran my first half marathon with Amanda and Marie Hamilton in 2013,â€ said Shelagh. â€œThat marathon (One To Remember) is dedicated to fallen police officers.â€
She kept her long distance shoes on and set her her sights on the Boston Marathon, an event that began in 1897 and has become the worldâ€™s most famous road race.
What was the best part of her 26.2-mile conquest?
â€œCrossing the finish line with Amanda. The race is emotionally and physical draining and to be with someone is definitely a push to make it to the finish line.â€
Shelagh said she was graetful to the Wellesley College students who line the course and cheer on the runners.
â€œThey were amazing. They were the best fan section besides Boylston Street.â€
Shelagh said she will be back at the starting line in 2017.
â€œI plan on running Boston again next year with Amanda,â€ said Shelagh, who is an applied behavioral analyst in the Saugus school system.