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BOSTON MARATHON An ‘overwhelming feeling of accomplishment’ Ana Febres-Cordero ran to challenge the stigma of mental illness

The Concord Journal - 4/20/2017

Ana Febres-Cordero finished the Boston Marathon for herself, and others.

Nearly six months after attempting suicide, Febres-Cordero crossed the finish line April 17 to show others battling mental illness they can face their challenges with courage and commitment.

Febres-Cordero, 20, attempted suicide Oct. 23, 2016, when she was a freshman at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, and her courage and commitment was on display halfway through the 26.2-mile course. That’s when, she said she started losing feeling in her legs, but she pushed on, looking at the message written on her arms with a Sharpie.

The message was a simple inscription — “Oct. 23, 2016.”

“Whenever I was tired and felt like giving up, I would touch my arms,” Ana said.

She was also buoyed by friends along the course who cheered her on, like some of her cross-country teammates at Concord-Carlisle High School that screamed words of encouragement at the top of the legendary Heartbreak Hill, which has been known to break the spirit of many Boston Marathon runners.

Waiting at the bottom of the hill was Hanna Bruno, Ana’s cross-country coach at CCHS, who made sure Ana heard her screams of support.

“That was emotional for me,” Ana said. “I started feeling tears coming in.”

As she turned onto the homestretch at Boylston Street, Ana said the tears came again, and she finished in 4 hours, 35 minutes.

“It was an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and emotion,” Ana said.

Ana had trained with her father Rafael since January, and they were determined to finish together.

However, at mile six, they were separated when Ana took a bathroom break.

Rafael said he called out for Ana, while Ana said they had an agreement before the race if they were separated, one would run ahead, and wait for the other to catch up.

That never happened, as Ana finished three minutes ahead of Rafael.

Rafael admitted there has always been a friendly rivalry with Ana, and said, if it wasn’t for the mixup at mile six, “I would definitely be ahead of her,” which elicited laughter from Ana.

“I’m a fortunate man and father for everything we’ve done together at this point,” Rafael said.

Next up for Ana is her expectation of a return to college in the fall, and her participation in a McLean Hospital campaign to challenge the stigma of mental illness.

It’s called “Deconstructing Stigma,” and Ana said she has been speaking with the hospital about becoming one of the faces of the national campaign, which could include her picture and story prominently displayed in airport terminal advertisements nationwide.

She and her family have also been asked to join the hospital’s Board of Visitors.

“That speaks volumes of Ana,” Rafael said.

Every step Ana took in the Boston Marathon raised money for McLean Hospital programs designed to eliminate the stigma of mental illness, and contributions were made through her online fund — givemclean.partners.org/anasrun.

Nearly six months after her suicide attempt, Ana has clear goals ahead, including college and a working partnership with McLean Hospital.

But Ana admitted that after 26.2 miles of hitting the pavement, her most pressing goal is “trying to regain the feeling in my legs.”

—Follow Henry Schwan on Twitter @henrycojo.

 
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