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Full Steam Ahead

Full Steam AheadLed by two fierce competitors, Tufts has a strong presence at the 105th Boston Marathon.

Boston [04.17.01] While the first-place finishers always receive a warm welcome at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the enormous crowds really come to cheer on the thousands of competitors who tackle Boston's famous race.

Such was the case for Tufts graduate Mike Savicki and Tufts psychologist Sherrie Kaplan. While they didn't run the Marathon together, the two Tufts competitors shared the same goal -- to complete the challenging 26.2-mile course.

Mike Savicki knows the Boston Marathon course well -- Monday marked his eighth official start in the race.

For the 1990 Tufts graduate, the Boston Marathon is proof that a swimming accident that left him confined to a wheelchair couldn't break his will to compete.

"I'm the guy next door who made the commitment to qualify and comes back every year," Savicki told the Boston Globe. "[The Marathon] draws the best athletes in the world, but it also draws the people who do what it takes through thick and thin to get there."

While he has competed for eight straight years in the wheelchair division, the 1990 Tufts graduate got his first taste of the Marathon as a bandit -- an unofficial runner -- while a student at Tufts.

"Savicki trained for two years before qualifying for the 1994 Boston Marathon," reported the Boston Globe. "When he crossed the finish line, he became the first person to compete in the race as both a runner and a wheelchair athlete, a distinction he still holds."

But the Tufts graduate doesn't limit himself to just the Boston Marathon.

According to the Globe, he's won more than 200 sporting awards, competed in a New Zealand marathon at the start of the millennium and competed in the Wheel Chair Rugby Nationals last week.

In fact, just seven months after the accident that paralyzed him, the Globe reported that Savicki won three gold medals in swimming at the Paralyzed Veterans Games.

But the 1994 Boston Marathon continues to have a special significance for Savicki.

"Crossing the finish line the first time in a wheelchair was probably the highlight of my racing so far, because of everything that had happened not only in my life, but for my family as well," he told the Globe. "I said to myself, this is such a great race, I'm going to do it every year I can."

While Sherrie Kaplan is a veteran marathoner -- she has run 13 all over the world -- Monday's race marked two "firsts" for the psychologist at Tufts' Medical School.

Not only did the 52-year-old athlete officially run the Boston Marathon for the first time, but Monday marked the first time she completed the 26-mile course alongside her daughter.

"It is one of the most moving things," Kaplan told the Boston Globe. "It is really extraordinary to be able to do something that is so tough with your child. It's very unusual for parents to get that kind of experience."

Kaplan's daughter, who used to hate running, took up the sport just two years ago.

But the mother-daughter team wasn't just running for the challenge -- the duo ran to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society in honor of one of Kaplan's colleagues.

"[My colleague] was just kind of the last in a string of people I know who are struggling with the disease and the way she was managing it made me so embarrassed that I was whining about the regular hoo-ha that goes on in everyone's life, that I decided it's time to step forward and do something in her behalf," Kaplan told the Globe.

And for Kaplan's daughter, the experience will be pretty unique.

"How often can you say your 52-year-old mother has to slow down for you," she said. "But she's so thrilled that it's something we can do together. It conjoins what we like to do, running and doing something for a charity."

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