By Josh Staloch
GREEN BAY – As the only Wisconsinite to run the Boston Marathon more than 25 times consecutively, Green Bay’s Kathy Waldron can surely be considered one of the state’s most prolific marathon runners.
Waldron has actually exceeded that number – finishing the event 31 times in a row.
As a young girl and a spectator of distance running, Waldron asked her father, Lester Kocourek, if he thought she could run a marathon someday.
Like any good father, and a marathon runner himself, he said of course, she could do anything she put her mind to.
In 1992, Waldron turned that dream into reality, competing in the Boston Marathon for the first time, and she said her father was proudly waiting for her at the finish line.
Sadly, Waldron said her father passed away a year later from cancer, and that first marathon was the only one he got to see.
However, she said the accomplishment he helped inspire, is a part of him forever, because he was buried with her first Boston Marathon medal, and she has carried his support with her during every marathon since.
An entire school behind her
Waldron described her sendoff for this year’s marathon as unbelievable.
More than 600 students at Sullivan Elementary on Green Bay’s east side, where Waldron works as a custodian, got a chance to bid her farewell before she left for the east coast to run in her 31st-straight Boston Marathon.
Lining the halls April 14, students gave her all the encouragement they could.
From the moment Waldron rounded the first corner, where students had gathered outside the main office, the student body at Sullivan was loud about getting “Ms. Kathy” fired up.
Dozens and dozens of signs, decorated with words of encouragement (not always spelled correctly), were snapping back and forth, held high above little heads.
Hands were waving, kids were jumping and smiles were ear-to-ear.
Waldron herself, though wearing a face mask as an extra precaution, was clearly beaming as well, crouching down to kid level to receive hugs, and holding her hands to her cheeks in surprise each time she turned a corner and was greeted by another mob of howling youngsters.
A wealth of inspiration
Waldron said she looked at each sign in a large stack she received from the students at Sullivan before she left for Chicago to board an Amtrak train headed for Boston.
She said the support she received from her work family, as well as her immediate family, propelled her through this year’s course.
“I was very, very happy with how it went this year,” Waldron said. “The weather was really good and I was so super inspired by the sendoff I got from everyone at Sullivan. I was so blown away, it totally energized me. I was so touched by what they did, everyone in that school is so, so amazing. I can’t believe they did that for me.”
No plans to stop
Waldron said she hopes she can continue her streak and participate in the Boston Marathon for many more years.
“I think I’m just grateful for every one I can get,” she said. “I think of them and not all of them were fast. Some of them were not so fast. As I age, I get slower every time. But every one that goes by, I’m more grateful that I can do it.”
She stressed that, after three decades of running the marathon, it’s not about beating any particular time.
“Even though I’m slow, I just want to finish, to keep my streak alive,” she said. “I never thought I would get to this many but, since I did, I figure there must be a reason. It’s not time to quit.”
Waldron said she believes her late father would be proud of her streak.
“I think he would say, ‘I knew you could’. He’d be proud of me,” Waldron said. “I cherish the memories of him telling me I could do it and I feel like both of my parents have been with me, every step of the way.”