Cancellation of Heritage Festival race doesn't stop family from celebrating triumph over cancer
When Marian Boehl completed her chemotherapy treatment for colon cancer on May 11, she began training for the Ypsilanti Area Jaycee's Running the Rails 5K run scheduled during the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival.
At that time, the Ypsilanti Township resident could barely walk around the block. As of Wednesday morning, she was ready to run and walk the Running the Rails race, which was planned for Sunday.
To celebrate Boehl's defeating cancer, almost all of her nine children were to travel from as far as away as Seattle and Chicago to complete the event with her.
But then notification came from the Heritage Festival and Jaycees — the run had been canceled.
Photo courtesy of the Boehl family
“It’s really disappointing because it has been in the works for a while,” said Marian Boehl’s daughter, Theresa Boehl. “Even when mom was sick, she had her eyes on this and said ‘When I get better I’m going to do the 5k — you guys do it with me.’”
Theresa Boehl said her family mostly is not athletic and some started training for the event, which also would mark one of the first times in several years that nearly the whole Boehl family was brought together.
“It’s sad its not going to happen the way we thought it would,” Theresa Boehl said.
Heritage Festival Ypsilanti Heritage Festival Director Andrew Clock said the mistake was caused by a miscommunication between the Jaycees, who organize the event for the Heritage Festival, and the City of Ypsilanti.
The Jaycees said they submitted their paperwork for the event to the city in July but the city claims it was never received, Clock said. He expressed regret and explained that the situation also is complex because the Rails route goes deep into Ypsilanti Township. It would require cooperation from the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department, which is difficult on short notice.
Despite being unable to run in the event, the Boehls say they are excited to be together and celebrate their mother beating cancer. The family moved to Ypsilanti Township in the early 1980’s and each of the nine children held paper delivery routes at different times for the Ypsilanti Press and Ann Arbor News throughout a 22-year span.
They visited the Heritage Festival as children, and remain a tight-knit family despite the fact they have left home and the youngest child, who graduated from Willow Run High School in June, is preparing to leave for Michigan State University next week.
As the kids grew up and left the house, Marian Boehl found more free time and started exercising and running regularly. She and other family previously ran the Rails 5K, and the exercise that comes with good nights of sleep after kids leave the home left her in excellent health when doctors discovered she had cancer last year.
Photo courtesy of the Boehl family
“I actually had felt better than I had felt in many years, so it was just a total surprise,” she said.
After surgery and six months of chemotherapy, Marian Boehl decided she would begin training for the Rails run because she said nothing motivates someone to train like an upcoming run.
“It was that pressure of the race coming and the kids coming that made me say ‘You have got to be able to do that and not collapse on the trail,” she said.
Theresa Boehl said she is disappointed about the race's cancellation, but still is excited to see her family. And she said they still plan to attend the Heritage Festival and perhaps have their own family run.
“I’m really excited about (the visit),” she said. “It’s always fun when we get together. We are a tight knit family and a family of friends. Anytime we’re getting together it’s a guaranteed fun time.”
Marian Boehl put the disappointment of the race’s cancellation in perspective.
“I was bummed out, but life just happens,” she said. “You just have to go with the flow and it’s definitely not the worst news I’ve ever gotten in my life.”