2015 Boston Marathon runner Jacki McLaughlin

Teacher ran first marathon for children with special needs

Jacki McLaughlin ran her first marathon Monday. Don’t believe her if she says it’s her last.

McLaughlin, 29, has a running bug that won’t be denied, much to the benefit of the nonprofit programs of Challenge Unlimited at Ironstone Farm.

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“I started running after college. I signed up for a 5K with friends. I said, ‘I’ll never do that again.’ I’ve been running since,” says McLaughlin. “I did the Bay State Half Marathon in Lowell. I said, ‘I’ll never do another one.’ I’ve done five, all over New England.”

Jacki M, Boston MarathonLast year, the not-so-reluctant runner took on Ragmar, a 200-mile tag-team race between teams of 12 friends, from Hull, Mass. to the tip of Cape Cod.

“We ran through the night. Each team member does three legs,” she said. “That was really cool. I’m doing that again this year. It’s 2 or 3 weeks after the marathon.”

A second-grade teacher at the Memorial School in Burlington, McLaughlin understands how Ironstone Farm’s therapy can help children, such as those with autism who are integrated into her school’s classrooms for reading, science and social studies. Since she signed up to run the Boston Marathon for Ironstone Farm, she’s become aware of many students and teachers who volunteer or know someone who has been helped by Ironstone, she says

“So many people have connections to Ironstone Farm that I had no idea about,” says McLaughlin. “It’s interesting to see how [a student’s] day doesn’t end when they walk out these school doors. To see some of these therapies and how they help these children, that’s been eye-opening.”

McLaughlin is used to running with friends, so she expected running the marathon alone – her first marathon, at that – to be a challenge. But before the race she said that thinking of the children she’s helping, and of the people affected by the 2013 bombing, would keep her going. It also served as motivation as she trained during a historically difficult and frigid winter.

To donate to Jacki McLaughlin’s effort on behalf of Ironstone Farm, visit firstgiving.com/fundraiser/JackiMcLaughlin/2015-boston-marathon-for-ironstone-farm.

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