'Pesky' Swampscott Runner Gearing Up for Boston Marathon

Check out these fun stories from some of the local runners that will be taking part in this year's Boston Marathon.

Neil Bernstein, and his Pesky Pole, of Swampscott
Neil Bernstein, and his Pesky Pole, of Swampscott

Every marathon runner has a story and at this year’s Boston Marathon the stories are especially inspiring and emotional.  At the JCC of the North Shore, several members are training for the big race and each has special motivation.

“Two things made me want to run,” said Diana Ohlson of Marblehead. “Both are situations I don’t have control over and made me feel powerless.”

After the marathon bombing, Ohlson felt frightened. “This is something I had to overcome. I try to instill in my kids not to let fears paralyze you. I want to show the world that terrorists won’t inhibit us from moving forward.”

Ohlson has another reason to run.  “In the past couple of years, I’ve learned of seven people battling cancer within a one-block radius of my home. Again, I felt so powerless. I need to feel part of a solution. So I’m raising money for cancer research.”  Ohlson trains at the JCC by running on the treadmill, lifting weights and Spinning.

Marblehead parents Leslie and Damian Bailey are running to raise money for Team in Training with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Damian was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a few years ago, just before the birth of the couple’s first child. Shockingly, Leslie was diagnosed with the same cancer last year, one month after the birth of their second child.

“We still have not been able to understand how it could have happened to us both, in such a short period of time, around the birth of a child, and we probably never will,” the Baileys say on their fundraising website. “What we do hope is that our story will inspire others going through treatment, and show that great things can happen in life after a cancer diagnosis. We are both truly lucky to be given the chance to run the 2014 Boston Marathon, for both personal reasons, and in light of the horrific events of last year’s marathon.

“Last year, Damian was stopped at mile 25.5, unable to complete the marathon, and I was directly across the street from the first explosion. Needless to say, we are looking forward to crossing the finish line together in April. 

The Baileys train at the JCC, too. “Damian and I both take advantage of the gym and pool. I love the classes and excellent instructors,” Leslie said.

Swampscott's Pesky Pole Runner

Neil Bernstein of Swampscott has run more than 40 marathons. He’s running his 9th Boston Marathon wearing his famous Pesky Pole… a 17-inch pole on the top of his head.  “I’m one of the characters,” Bernstein joked.

Motivated by the 2004 Red Sox World Series championship and Mark Bellhorn's Pesky Pole home run, Neil thought it would be fun to run the 2005 Boston Marathon with a miniature Pesky Pole on his head. The pole is constructed of, among other things, a wire hangar, Gatorade bottles, a yellow painter’s hat from the 2004 NY Marathon, plastic book covers and safety pins. It was endorsed by Johnny Pesky himself.

Bernstein raises money for The Jimmy Fund.  He trains at the JCC by running on the treadmill (20 miles last week) and swimming.

If you’d like to support these runners and their causes, you can click on their websites here:

Diana Ohlson: http://www.rundfmc.org/2014/dianao

Baileys  http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston14/lbaileyou6

Bernstein http://www.peskypolemarathon.org

To learn more about how the JCC of the North Shore in Marblehead supports people’s fitness and wellness goals, visit JCCNS.ORG or call at 781-631-8330.



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