BOSTON (CBS) – Katie O’Grady has always been drawn to Boston’s running culture and city trails. Originally from New York, O’Grady made the move to Boston just two years ago.
“I had a dream that I really wanted to move to Boston because I like the area. I like all the runners, I used to come up here all the time with my team,” she told WBZ-TV.
But, about a year into her time in Boston, O’Grady found herself hospitalized and seriously sick.
“In comes Dr. [Ahmet] Uluer and the first thing he starts to talk about while I’m hooked up to IV’s is, ‘Would you be interested in running the Boston Marathon?’” O’Grady explained.
O’Grady was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of six. The disease produces a thick, sticky mucus that can clog the lungs and cause repeated infections, but she never let it stop her from being an athlete. O’Grady competed in college level track and field and, after moving to Boston, she took a job as a coach at Tufts University.
“People know about Katie. People know she’s a runner and they’re inspired by her. I always knew she was an athlete so she was going to be one of the first people I approached with this idea that we’re potentially gonna put a team together to run the marathon,” Dr. Ahmet Uluer told WBZ.
Dr. Uluer is O’Grady’s doctor and a pulmonologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is also the director of the adult cystic fibrosis program at the hospital, and has wanted to run Boston ever since the bombings back in 2013.
“I came face-to-face with some of the devastating injuries while I was in the emergency room at that time. Clearly, it was an emotional moment for all of us. It was incredible seeing all these people that I know working so hard to save the lives of everyone coming in. The fact that these people were dressed running the marathon, it created a special moment for me in that I felt like the one way to honor all these people was to make sure that I’m physically fit and run the marathon,” Dr. Uluer said.
Dr. Uluer has since formed a team of 10 cystic fibrosis patients from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who go by the name “26.2 Miles Apart,” a play on the 2019 fictional film “Five Feet Apart” that follows two teens with cystic fibrosis as they fall in love, but avoid close physical contact because of their disease. O’Grady says the concept of social distancing is actually not anything new for people with cystic fibrosis.
“I think a lot of the CF world adapted because we have been living this kind of life since the day we were born pretty much, staying 6 feet apart, washing your hands, doing everything so you don’t get infections and you don’t get sick.”
While new small molecule therapies are helping CF patients live longer, Dr. Uluer says exercise is key.
“We know it helps both physically and mentally, emotionally, our quality of life. In cystic fibrosis we think it reduces inflammation. People are doing much better and showing the new generation that anything is possible, including running the Boston Marathon.”
Although Dr. Uluer isn’t worried about “26.2 Miles Apart” finishing those 26.2 miles, he is worried about one thing.
“Katie runs really fast. If we start together, I’ll be seeing her for about 10 seconds.”
O’Grady and Dr. Uluer will be running along the Minute Man Trail in Somerville this weekend. They are raising money for both the Cystic Fibrosis Center and the Brigham and Women’s Stepping Strong team.
You can donate to O’Grady’s charity page and Dr. Uluer’s charity page. O’Grady has also started an Instagram account that is focused on helping people with chronic illness get into running. You can find her at @kates_race_to_breathe.