PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — An incredible photo of two Pittsburgh Marathon runners finishing the final mile hand-in-hand is going viral.
Betsy Magovern and Daniel Heckert had finished the half marathon and made their way to the cheer station to provide motivation for those finishing the 26.2 mile race in the home stretch, the 25-mile mark.
“I just ran over to grab my phone as they were coming,” Heckert said, a Steel City Road Runners coach. “They started holding hands right before they got to the mile 25 cheer station. I just wanted to capture the moment that showed these two ladies were going to finish the same race that winner did.”
It was Betsy Magovern’s foresight that led to this heartwarming moment going viral on Facebook.
“The ones that are coming in later need us the most,” Magovern said, a runner with experience both running the race and supporting those at the cheer stations. “We saw the sweep car coming, but sure enough, we see these two ladies trotting along, holding hands and I told Dan, ‘We need to snap a picture of this, this is what the marathon is all about.'”
In talking with the ladies, Magovern and Heckert learned that Laura Mazur of New Bremen, Ohio, and Jessica Robertson, of Braddock, were not friends or acquaintances prior to the race. However, they bonded over their desire to finish the race.
“These two meeting on the course and forming a friendship is what the running community is all about,” Heckert said. “It isn’t about finishing first, it’s about helping each and every person change their lives for the better.”
Robertson was running in her first marathon and didn’t think she was going to make it to the end.
“I thought to myself, I’m not going to make it. There’s literally no one else out here but me and I can’t do this by myself, I just can’t,” Robertson said.
At mile 14, she met Mazur, who was running in her 12th marathon.
“She said, ‘I’ll make you a promise. I won’t leave you if you don’t leave me. And no matter what, we will cross [the finish line] together.’ And I said, ‘Well, I won’t leave you because I can’t do this alone,'” Robertson said.
“There’s part of you, you know, that’s saying, like, oh my gosh, I need to tap out on this, but then there’s the other part that’s like, shut up, no, go ahead, just do it, keep going on going,” Mazur said. “And I’m like, sometimes you actually need somebody right there beside you audibly telling you that.”
“They could have given up. They could’ve said, the sweep vehicle’s right behind us, we hurt too much, we’ve got too far to go. There’s nobody around them. They did this by themselves. Where everybody else has a crowd to go through, they spent the majority of this, the two of them together,” Heckert said.
“It wasn’t about gender. It wasn’t really about race. It wasn’t about religion. None of that mattered. We were just two individuals, two humans who had a goal in mind and we leaned on each other to get there,” Robertson said.
When runners get to the home stretch of the Pittsburgh Marathon, there’s an excitement that comes with being so close to finish the race, but some need that extra push.
“What impressed me most was their spirit at mile 25,” Magovern said. “They were in good spirits and good cheer. There’s a lot of raw emotion at mile 25, that’s why it’s helpful to have a cheer station there.”
Heckert believes that it’s not about celebrating where you finish, but that you finished.
“We often celebrate the winners, but not often does the public get to hear the stories of those at the end,” he said. “Ultimately, when we finish, we get to collectively embrace the joy.”