Mercy Home Heroes Spotlight: Barbara Brodsky
In 2015, Barbara Brodsky was talking with her neighbor when she mentioned she wanted to get back into running. Her neighbor happened to work at Mercy Home for Boys & Girls and suggested she join the Heroes team. Two days later, she signed up to finally complete her first marathon – a mission she had started 13 years earlier.
In college, Brodsky found a group of friends who shared her passion for running. Each week, they got together to get in some miles. After graduating in 2002, she and a friend decided they’d run the Chicago Marathon.
They trained all summer long, following a 16-week program and completing long runs as far as 18 miles. It seemed the two were doing everything right to properly prepare. When their training was nearly done, they figured it was time to sign up.
“We were so naïve and silly… It didn’t even dawn on us that the marathon was a popular thing to do and that it would be full,” she said. “We were kind of frustrated that we had just spent the whole summer training and we couldn’t even do it.”
Life went on for Brodsky and her marathon ambitions became an afterthought. But when her neighbor brought up the Chicago Marathon more than a decade later, it was an opportunity to finish what she started. And as a teacher in the Chicagoland area, she had her own special connection to Mercy Home.
“I’ve actually had the pleasure of teaching students who live at Mercy Home, so that is a huge inspiration,” she said. “I’ve referred students there, so I was so glad that I knew about Mercy Home.”
I’ve actually had the pleasure of teaching students who live at Mercy Home, so that is a huge inspiration.
Once again, Brodsky spent the summer months training for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon – this time with her reservation at the starting line secured. When the big day arrived, it turned out to be worth the wait.
“It was so emotional – I still get emotional thinking about it,” she said. “Just standing there before the race and looking at all the people around me – I was in disbelief.”
Like many runners, Brodsky hit the wall during the race. Even though she’s a science teacher, she started doing math problems in her head to take her mind off the exhaustion. But she got the boost she needed when her husband jogged the last mile by her side.
Brodsky finally reached the goal she set out to achieve 13 years prior. She not only became a marathoner – she became a Hero for the kids at Mercy Home. But she wasn’t done.
In 2019, she came back to run with the Heroes, and this time she was more involved. She joined a CARA training group, which she was unable to do previously, and became active in the team’s Facebook group. When it came time for the pasta dinner on race weekend, she enjoyed seeing her fellow Heroes and connecting with the mission.
“It’s really cool to hear the kids give their speeches at the dinner and just to see the other people there who are helping these kids,” Brodsky said. “Anything that helps students is really near and dear to my heart but having taught students who live there – it really hits home.”
On race day, Brodsky added another medal to her collection and improved her time by 20 minutes. But her goal was to finish in under five hours, and she crossed the finish line at 5:02. It didn’t take long her to sign up for the 2020 Chicago Marathon to take another run at it.
Anything that helps students is really near and dear to my heart but having taught students who live there – it really hits home.
Just a couple of months later, she was back training with her CARA group. But during one of their outings in a forest preserve, a deer jumped out and startled the group. Everyone flinched, and Brodsky’s foot slid off the path and she tore a ligament in her ankle.
She spent a couple of weeks in a walking boot but made a full recovery. Now, she is back to training for 2020 and has her eyes set on beating the five-hour mark. And thanks to her previous marathons, she has no doubts about reaching any of her goals in life.
“I’ve run a marathon more than once now, and it kind of gives me the feeling that I can do anything,” she said. “It’s given me this added sense of confidence that maybe was there before but I just wasn’t aware of it.”