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Nicole Homerin is running for people like herself with congenital heart defects

"Not only has running become my way to grieve, but also a way to realize that my body could do more than it ever was supposed to do."

Nicole Homerin started running to get through the grief of a student's death. Now she's running the marathon to raise money for children with congenital heart defects.

In our “Why I’m Running” series, Boston Marathon runners share what’s inspiring them to make the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston. If you’re running the marathon, you can share your #WhyImRunningBoston story here.

Name: Nicole Homerin
Age: 30
From: Los Angeles, Calif.

In 1991, I was born in Chicago and at six weeks old diagnosed with Ventricular Septal Defect, essentially a large hole in my heart. When the hole wouldn’t close on its own and I wasn’t growing, the doctors decided I needed surgery. On September 6, 1991, I underwent open heart surgery. I have since learned that my chances of survival weren’t great. In addition, I was never supposed to be able to do strenuous physical activity.

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During the summer of 2017, I was working at The Campus School at Boston College, with preschool students with multiple disabilities and medical complexities. My students ran a race with Team Hoyt and, while I couldn’t attend, I loved hearing about it. A few weeks later, I experienced the loss of my first preschool student. Nothing prepares a teacher to bury a young child. It was devastating and the only way I learned to cope was running along the Charles River behind my apartment on Commonwealth Ave. under the Citgo sign at 5 a.m. before heading into work.

I always loved cheering on the runners at Mile 25, but I thought that could never be me, my body wouldn’t be able to. But as time passed, running as a way to grieve became the mainstay in my life for the next three years. I have since experienced the loss of six additional preschool students, a few of my students from Perkins School for the Blind, and my grandmother the week I moved from Boston to Los Angeles. My father, Dennis Homerin, unfortunately, passed away on August 27. He was active in fundraising for Chicago Children’s Hospital, now Lurie Children’s, and the Children’s Heart Foundation.

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Not only has running become my way to grieve, but also a way to realize that my body could do more than it ever was supposed to do. Last year, right before the pandemic, I ran the L.A. Marathon. When the pandemic hit, I think the world began to see just how fragile life can be and how tomorrow is never promised, so today is a gift. I ran almost every day during the pandemic, just to remain hopeful and live every day to the best of my ability. I knew that I had to take on another marathon and running for Boston Children’s Hospital where my students and families received amazing care and the cardiac department serves children with congenital heart defects (CHD) just like me, was the perfect fit.

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The 125th Boston Marathon being postponed to October is particularly timely, as I will be celebrating my 30th “Heartiversary,” the day open heart surgery gave me a fighting chance at an active life, on September 6, 2021. So through all the loss, I am training and running for my students, for my patient partner, a fellow CHD warrior, my father, and for myself because 30 years later, I am able to do what was supposed to be impossible.

Editor’s note: Entry may have been lightly edited for clarity or grammar. 

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