Natalie O Barlatier

I ran track and field from 11-years-old through high school, but I wasn’t a distance runner. I raced the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles. I wouldn’t run anything longer than 800 meters. I just couldn’t believe anyone would enjoy miles and miles of running; to me, it seemed boring and painful.  

Then, when I was 28, I was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease of the central nervous system. I needed to find something to keep me active and moving. Allowing the disease to prevent me from working out or possibly even walking was not an option. I thought about everything that brought me joy in sports after the diagnosis. And one day, I went outside and just started running. I didn’t pay attention to time or distance, I simply ran. I fell in love immediately; the runner’s high was real! I went from running 5ks to 10ks to half marathons. Finally, I decided I wanted to run a marathon. My old coaches would have been shocked to hear I wanted to run a marathon, when I wouldn’t even run a mile in high school!

In 2012, I signed up for the New York City marathon and started training. Hurricane Sandy forced the marathon to be canceled that year. Then, the tragic events in 2013 kept me from finishing the Boston Marathon in 2013. I finally finished my first in 2014 and have since completed 7 marathons, including 3 Bostons, 2 New Yorks, and 2 Bay States.

My first Boston Marathon was April 15th, 2013, a day I will never forget, and one that will forever haunt and affect our community. Some leg cramps early on slowed me down and may have saved my life. I was about a half mile from the finish line when race officials stopped me. No one seemed to know what was happening.

Unbeknownst to me, my boyfriend (now husband), Ace had found his way to the finish line with some friends to cheer me on. He eventually got through to me on my cellphone, telling me to meet them a few blocks away. When I found them, he was on the ground with torn pants and blood running down his leg; he had been hit with shrapnel from one of the bombs. We were able to get him to the hospital, and his physical wounds have since healed, but we both still live with the trauma of that tragic day.

I’ve been back twice to run this very notable course by staying strong and showing I can move on. I first finished the year after the bombing. Then, after the birth of my children and an MS relapse, I trained to run again in 2020. That was cancelled due to COVID, but I returned to run the first (and only) Fall 2021 Boston Marathon. I will be running my fourth Boston this spring in remembrance of the 10-year anniversary of the bombing year.

Running moves me on an emotional level, giving me moments in solitude to ponder and reflect. I also love the community I’ve found with it. There are so many people running for so many reasons and not everyone’s story is the same. It’s like reading a novel when it comes to running: what will the next chapter be, who will be the characters, how will they evolve and grow, and how will every story unfold?

Running fuels me to be the woman I have become in strength and hope. For those who say I can’t with running, I say you can.

Running is a journey, so don’t just focus on the destination. Let it unfold and be patient. Let it happen organically and you’ll be amazed at what you discover within you and with people you meet along the way. Your body is amazing. You only have one life to see what you can do with it and you can find it in running.

© Copyright Black Unicorn Marathoners

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