LYNN — The Special Olympics has a real running champion in Lynn’s Jessica Upton.
The first-time entrant in this year’s Boston Marathon, Upton, who has a 2-year-old daughter named Norah Grace, is the wife of former Classical boys soccer coach Rob Upton. She is running the race for the Special Olympics in hopes to raise awareness and to build friendships for other athletes with intellectual disabilities.
“I have participated in many races, including a half-marathon,” Upton said. “This will be my first full marathon.”
The 34-year-old Maynard native does not consider herself to be a runner, yet she will be participating in one of the most physically grueling activities in hopes of expanding the public’s consciousness toward the Special Olympics. Her passion for the Special Olympics stems from her background in sports, as well as special education.
“The Special Olympics allows athletes of all intellectual abilities to participate in something great,” Upton said. “To show their athletic abilities, to be part of a team, to create friendships. These are opportunities these athletes may never get the chance to do without the Special Olympics.”
It has been a personal goal of Upton’s to run a marathon for more than 10 years, and she has been training for two to three hours a day despite temperamental New England weather.
“Training for the marathon is not easy, it is time away from my family, aches and pains and cold winter runs,” Upton said. “Knowing that I’m running for something that I’m passionate about helps me push through. I remember I’m not running for myself, I’m running to help transform an athletes life.”
Health is exceptionally important for Upton. She makes sure to maintain a balanced diet with healthy carbohydrates and protein, to help her stay energized through her grueling runs.
Both her physical and mental health are of the utmost importance, as she prepares for the undertaking of the 26.2 mile run.
“The trainer we are assigned to gave us an 18 week training program,” Upton said, “which has prepared me mentally and physically for the big day.”
Upton works at the Massachusetts General Hospital of Health Professions and finds the time to accomplish her dreams by maintaining her motivation to make it across the finish line. She has worked rigorously to accomplish her goal. Upton is in good spirits about the marathon, and is looking forward to the big day.
“I am very excited for Marathon day,” Upton said. “I have been working hard for 4 months training and fundraising, the Marathon will be my victory lap.”
The Special Olympics have been around since 1968, and have more than 4.9 million athletes in 172 countries.