SPRINGFIELD, NJ – Before her son dared her to run the New York City Marathon more than seven years ago, Sally Bell had never considered herself to be a runner.
The 63-year-old, who moved to Springfield more than a year ago, just completed her seventh New York City Marathon this month on Nov. 4, with her first being in 2012.
She runs each year as a part of Team Boomer, a cystic fibrosis awareness group, mainly because her son, Stephen, was diagnosed with the chronic lung disease at just three months old.
“We were just at a family dinner and I really have no idea why he dared me,” she said in a phone interview with LocalSource on Nov. 6. “I didn’t even have to think about it for more than a second before I was ready to go.”
Bell’s son already was involved with Team Boomer when he dared his mother to run. They ran together when she made her marathon debut, and he’s currently vice president of the Young Professionals Committee at the Boomer Esiason Foundation.
Team Boomer is a program within the BEF that works to encourage people with CF to live active, healthy lifestyles.
Along with the New York Marathon, Bell also runs the Chicago and Houston marathons.
“My son got me up and running and I haven’t stopped since,” she added. “I’m absolutely pumped to be a part of my team.”
Bell, who’s a special-education teacher at Montgomery Academy in Basking Ridge, finds running to be a good form of meditation as well as exercise.
“There are some days that are more stressful than others with my students,” she said. “So, when I get home, I just love to run and de-stress from the day.”
While training for an event, she runs five days a week but when she’s not training for anything specific, she runs an average of 25 miles per week. Bell prefers running outdoors over using a treadmill.
“I can’t stand treadmills,” she said. “During the winter, I just layer up and run. There’s something that’s so much better about running outside.”
Bell jokingly admits that she’s no longer a “spring chicken” and the races have become more challenging over the years.
“I figure I’ll just do it until I can’t, but I’m certainly not there yet,” she said. “If my son could run with a lung disease, then I certainly can.”
Her finishing time for the New York Marathon this year was a little more than 5 hours and she placed in the first 40,000.
There were more than 50,000 who participated in the race this year.
While Bell follows various training programs, the only change she makes to her diet is loading up on carbohydrates the week before.
“I’ve always eaten fairly healthy and it’s key to always stay hydrated, but I eat almost a pint of ice cream every night and that doesn’t change even while I’m training,” she admitted.
Bell mentioned that the clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-50s made this year’s New York Marathon one of the best.
“The energy once you enter Staten Island is just phenomenal,” she said. “Absolutely everyone is cheering you on and, with the sun shining, you couldn’t have asked for a better day.”
She also gives credit to her son and her entire family for being her biggest supporters.
“I couldn’t do any of this without them,” Bell said. “I just hope to run with my son again soon.”
Team Boomer participates in multiple marathons to spread the word about the benefits of exercise for people with CF and to contribute to the efforts being made to find a cure for the disease, according to the organization. They’ve raised more than $10 million since its inception.
The BEF was founded in 1993 by former New York Jets quarterback and 1988 NFL MVP Boomer Esiason and his wife, Cheryl, after their son was diagnosed with CF.