From bedside to Boston, and beyond!
Kelley Duell and Rebecca Whitman have a friendship that began in unlikely surroundings. But it has gone the distance and now they are set to compete at the AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championships in October.
Kelley is 51 years old from Orlando, Florida where she lives with her husband and two teenage children.
“I have run for many years and was training for the London Marathon in 2019 when, three weeks before race day, my lung collapsed and filled with fluid," she says.
"The infection was so severe it abscessed my left lung and was moving to my right side. I spent ten days in hospital and underwent two major surgeries.”
This was when Kelley was moved to the recovery ward, and she met a nurse named Bec.
“On shift one day a colleague said to me ‘you should really go and meet my patient, she’s a runner! She’s even run Boston,'" says the 42-year-old Bec.
“Everyone I know and work with hears a lot from me about running. So of course, I jumped at the chance to chat about running!”
They hit it off immediately and although Kelley was hospitalized, she promised to include Bec in her running groups after her recovery.
“Bec would come in and chat with me about running. She knew I was down about not being able to run London and wanted to lift my spirits,” says Kelley.
“She had just qualified for Boston and told me that we’d run it together some day. She never once doubted me. While the doctors didn’t think I could expect too much too soon, Bec was always encouraging. She also had dreams of running London and all the Abbott World Marathon Majors.”
“Six months after I walked out of the hospital with Bec’s and my doctor’s support, I ran the 2019 Chicago Marathon and I qualified for the 2020 Boston Marathon. Bec and I were going to share the streets of Boston after all!”
Covid put that momentous milestone on pause, but Kelley and Bec stayed in touch throughout – encouraging each other with their training via text messages.
One year later, they made it to Boston. Ahead of race day, they attended a church service and took photos at the iconic finish line. Though they didn’t cover the 26.2 miles together, they both ran their hearts out and put themselves in top spots in their age group rankings.
Kelley’s return to running has not been an easy one, and she started running with a companion in case things didn’t go according to plan. She also had a stress test done, wore a heart rate monitor and had blood work done for a few months to check she was coping well.
“Imagine our joy when at the start of this year we both found out that we had qualified for the 2022 AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championships! We have started making plans and will spend our days training and encouraging one another.
“We will have dinner together in London, go to the Running Show together and I hope Bec will wait for me at the finish line.”
Bec adds: “To find that I made the cut for London is a dream come true. Kelley was hinting to me that we may make it, and she watched our numbers all year. I forgot that when we met, she was training for London! For us to experience this together now is perfect, a full circle moment.”
Kelley explains: “My first race back was very scary. But slowly I gained more confidence to push myself harder. My build up is slower, my recovery times longer, and I have to listen to my body. My lungs will always be scarred, and I must make sure I don’t get any viruses or infections that could give me pneumonia.
“Bec’s support has meant so much to me. I was very sick, and it was very hard to recover but she is not only an amazing nurse, Bec is also a beautiful human with so much love and compassion. When she came in my room after my surgery and told me we were going to run together, I believed her. She gave me hope.”
Now with two months until their World Championship debuts and their second Major together, they are both excited to say: “We will see you in London in October!”
*Always consult a physician and get a full health evaluation prior to marathon training. Even if athletes appear healthy after treatment or surgery, or to have a disorder under control, underlying medical conditions could exist.
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