Running Boston Marathon in Nick's memory

Tina Comeau
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By Tina Comeau



Every time her foot hits the pavement – every kilometre, every sore muscle, every day of training – Nicole Gushue is thinking about a nine-year-old boy named Nick.

He motivates her to push herself even more. To run one more kilometre.

And to run another one after that.

Diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a form of cancer, at the age of three, Nick Defelice – the son of Gushue’s cousin Denise, who was born and raised in Boston – is Gushue’s inspiration. 

“He would go from a chemo treatment to a baseball game. That’s how he kept just going and just amazed everyone with the strength he had,” says Gushue, strength she is tapping into as she readies herself to run the Boston Marathon on April 15 in memory of Nick.

Nick died on June 26, 2012. In his nine years of life he touched and impacted the lives of many, including Gushue. (Click here to see a tribute video Nicole Gushue made about Nick.)

While most of the runners who do the Boston Marathon qualify for it by meeting designated time running standards for their age and gender, others run the marathon as part of a charity component of the event. Gushue will be running with the Mass General Marathon Team and will help raise funds for the children’s cancer unit at Mass General Hospital in Boston, where Nick received treatment for his cancer. The team’s overall goal is to raise $750,000. Gushue’s share of that is to raise $5,000.

Four team members will be running in memory of Nick, including people who didn’t know him, but who knew of his battle.

“People who run on the Mass General team, some of them can be doctors, nurses and people who have never run in their life but who are just inspired by the kids,” says Gushue.

Running has been a large part of Gushue’s life since she was in high school. Like Nick, who was active in sports – including baseball and hockey – as she was growing up, Gushue participated in many sports, among them track and field, soccer and basketball. Running is something she was good at as a teenager and found success with so she stuck with it. Now as an adult she runs for her leisure and in races – well, that is when life has allowed her to run.

“I go in spurts,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve got five kids so I’m either running or I’m pregnant or I’m nursing.”

She ran a marathon in Yarmouth two years ago so this isn’t totally unfamiliar ground. Her training got underway on Dec. 10 and will span 18 weeks. She is following a training schedule that would see her complete the marathon – all 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometres of it – in three hours and 45 minutes.

“The last one I trained for that time as well. I did it in 4:20. But if you remember two years ago the Yarmouth marathon was during hurricane Irene, so 4:20 in a hurricane probably isn’t bad,” she says.

Still, while her training has been geared towards a certain finishing time, she’ll be fine with whatever happens, because it’s the cause, not how long it takes her to cover the course, that is most important.

“I know it’s going to be very emotional and I want to take it all in. I want to go and do it and not focus on what my time is.”

One of the more emotional moments will be at the 20-mile mark, where one of the doctors at Mass General Hospital has a home that he opens up to the team’s supporters.

“At that point they encourage you to stop and greet the family that you’re supporting,” says Gushue, who became close with her cousin in Boston as pen pals while the girls were growing up. There were some family visits, although in more recent years Facebook allowed the cousins to stay in daily contact. Through this contact Gushue was able to follow the highs and lows of Nick’s cancer treatment.

“It wasn’t until the last three weeks that it really slowed him down,” Gushue says, saying this was part of the reason his nickname at the hospital was Nick Power.

And even with cancer ­ – actually because of it – he had many opportunities that children his age don’t get, such as meeting hockey legend Bobby Orr or having actor Adam Sandler call his house just to chat.

In Nick’s case, eventually scans and tests showed he was cancer-free following his treatments. But the joy was short-lived when the cancer returned. Gushue says it’s not fair that kids get cancer and die from it everyday.

Gushue recalls her own first experience with childhood cancer when she lost her friend Heidi Devine in high school. Later in life Gushue, in her twenties, was diagnosed with melanoma. She was successfully treated but still undergoes annual follow-ups.

Much of Gushue’s marathon training over the winter has been done on a treadmill, but she ventures out daily (with the exception of one rest day a week), weather permitting, on runs that can vary in distance from six or eight kilometres on some days to 29 on others. On a recent Sunday her run took her to every town limit sign she could find throughout Yarmouth – a goal she had set for that specific day. She has also incorporated skating and skiing into her training.

People can follow her daily training regime on the Facebook page “Nic for Nick.” Reads one entry on Day 67: “Ran from mom's house, my old five kilometre route from my teenage years/early 20s. I was pleasantly surprised at the memories that came to my mind, songs I used to listen to on that run, people I used to think about.”

Still, throughout it all her thoughts are of Nick, who continues to inspire others as well. Reads a comment attached to an online donation for Gushue’s marathon run: “I am an 11-year-old Canadian boy living in Australia. I wish I could have met Nick and played ice hockey with him. He looks like he was a lot of fun. I am inspired by his story. Good luck on your run Nicole.”

Recalls Gushue about the time surrounding Nick’s death, “I couldn't talk for days. It was so hard. Here I had five healthy kids and my cousin lost the only one she had.”

The lyrics of a song called Jealous of the Angels by Jenn Bostic that Gushue has included in a video she’s posted on YouTube about her upcoming Nic for Nick charity marathon sums up many of her feelings: “Your love lives on inside of me, and I will hold on tight.”




Online donations


If you would like to donate to Nicole Gushue’s Nic for Nick Boston Marathon charity run you can donate online at and searching for Nicole Gushue.


SUBHEADING: April Fool’s Day Runway Fun Run/Walk


Nicole Gushue is also organizing an April Fool’s Day Runway Fun Run/Walk on Monday, April 1.

The event, which also falls on the Easter Monday holiday, is being held at the Yarmouth airport.

• 9 a.m. - registration tent opens (although people are encouraged to pre-register)

• 10 a.m. - run starts

• 11 a.m. (or after the last person finishes) a reception at the airport terminal

Course: Yarmouth airport runways:

• 2 km run/walk will go down one runway and back.

• 6.5 km run/walk will run down two runways and back (L-shape).

Registration fee (12 years and older) is $25 which includes:

- t-shirt for first 100 who register

- group warm-up

- water stops

- wearable prize at the half way point

- fun along the route

- reception in the airport terminal afterwards

- draw prizes

Children (12 and under) registration fee is $15, which includes:

- group warm-up

- water stops

- wearable prize at the half way point

- fun along the route

- reception in the airport terminal afterwards

- draw prizes

Family rates are also available.

Silly hats are encouraged to be worn by participants. People can register in advance of the event at Runners Attic on Main Street. People can also make a donation on the fundraising site in the amount of their registration fee and then complete the paperwork on the morning of the event.




Organizations: Boston Marathon, Mass General Hospital

Geographic location: Boston, Yarmouth, Australia

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Recent comments

  • Kathy Sumner
    March 07, 2013 - 11:16

    May you reach and surpass your goal. Always in my prayers. God Bless ~