ClaudineWhen Claudine Lukawesky ran the Boston Marathon this year, her goal had nothing to do with her finishing time. She ran to honour a friend who survived domestic violence and raised funds for the Canadian Women’s Foundation in the process.

“This whole process has made me do things I thought I would never do,” Claudine says. Her friend’s experience and ongoing recovery inspired her to learn more about domestic violence, and find ways to take action.

In the following Q&A, Claudine talks about what motivated her to run the race without formal training, what she learned along the way, and why it’s so important to support survivors of domestic violence.

What prompted you to run the Boston Marathon?

My friend suffered a very bad domestic violence attack. I was visiting one day when she was in the hospital, getting out of her coma, and I was wearing a T-shirt that said “Women set the pace.”

She read the shirt and asked me, “Do you run?” For her to be able to read the words on the shirt from that distance was one of those amazing milestones in her recovery.

When I told her that I run short races to raise money for charities, she said, “I used to run marathons, can you run a marathon for me?” That’s when I said, “OK!”

I knew there was a local marathon coming up, so when I got home that day, I signed up. There was no chance for me to train, but I’m in decent shape. So I ran that marathon and it qualified me for the Boston Marathon.

My philosophy was that she didn’t train her body to learn how to take a hit, nor did she train her body to learn how to recover. So I thought, I’ll go into this without training.

I also searched foundations that I could raise money for that deal with domestic violence, and that’s what led me to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. I was able to raise money for the Foundation through my run in Boston.

Did you have a particular fundraising goal?

I’m not one that likes to go out and ask people for money, but because I believe in this cause so much, I didn’t have qualms about reaching out. The more I read about domestic violence and witnessed what my friend is going through, it was a no-brainer.

The area that I live in is on the higher-income spectrum. When this happened, people were shocked. It proved that it doesn’t matter whether you make $20,000 a year or $200,000; domestic violence can affect anyone and everyone.

How did you feel going into the marathon?

It was really surreal in a lot of ways. It felt empowering to be able to make a difference in people’s lives.

Because of how the Boston fans cheer you on, you’re running in a kind of tunnel atmosphere. I was thinking this is what it might be like for my friend in a coma: when you’re trying to see that light at the end of the tunnel, and you have people cheering you on, and people holding your hand.

I got to points where I was feeling, “I can’t do this. I’m so tired”, but I would think, “My friend didn’t quit; she didn’t stop fighting for her life.” You dig really deep to find any bit of energy and motivation. If it wasn’t for my friend, the motivation just wouldn’t be there. That thought process got me through. When I got to the finish line, it was an intoxicating feeling.

Did I have a great finishing time? Not the best, but I can absolutely say with pride that I finished what I started.

How is your friend doing today?

She’s in complete recovery mode. I still believe that she will walk on her own one day. I’ve been trying to help in various ways, like taking her to the pool because she loves the water and it’s amazing therapy for her.

Through this process, I’ve observed the lack of services available to people who do not have any insurance to help facilitate paying for more rehab. If she was in a car accident, I think people would have looked at it differently, and I think we need more awareness for people who experience domestic violence.

I’m lucky to have her in my life because she is an incredible woman. I draw strength from her. The power of friendship, the power of love, the power of giving, is just so rewarding in many different ways.

I want people to look around and realize that everybody has a story to tell, and some have more hardships than others, but if we listen and help, we can change one thing at a time.

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