A Queen Bee on a Mission

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Register for the Queen Bee Half Marathon and 4 Miler today!

If you have participated in any of the past Queen Bee half marathons or 4-Milers, you’ve probably seen Erin Lawry, if not run with her. Erin is one of the official pacers for the half marathon (2-hour pace) and wears a bright yellow, cheery Queen Bee costume to make sure her runners can spot her in the crowded field. 

When you see Erin, you see her smile along with her bee outfit, but at the 2016 Bee she wore something you couldn’t see—a drainage tube. Seemingly out of the blue, Erin was diagnosed earlier that year with breast cancer. 

Before that diagnosis, Erin was the picture of health and athleticism. “I began running at 31, completing my first marathon (the 2002 Flying Pig) eight months postpartum after my third child,” she said.  “I’ve been hooked ever since. Forty two marathons later, I’ve competed in seven Boston Marathons, seven Flying Pigs and three Queen Bee halves, to name a few. I’ve been a pacer for four of the Flying Pig marathons and two Queen Bee half marathons.” 

To say that the diagnosis was a surprise would be an understatement. “I had no family history, no lumps, no symptoms, triple hormone negative, breast cancer gene negative,” she said. “I felt strong. In fact, I ran five marathons and did a half Ironman the prior year.” 

A spur-of-the-moment decision to visit a mammogram truck while doing routine errands around town turned up the cancer shortly after the 2016 Flying Pig Marathon. Between July 2016 and February 2017 she had five surgeries. In between, she walked the 13.1 miles of the Queen Bee Half. 

“Doing the Queen Bee was important to me because I’ve done every year since the beginning,” Erin said. “So I decided to walk the entire thing (drainage tube and all). I had it tucked under my skirt. It yanked and pulled, but I pushed through, even running the last four miles with my friend Kelly Smith by my side.

“I couldn’t have made this journey without the love and support of my family and friends. You really know who’s there for you and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Erin returned to running this year, picking up where she left off—and then some. “I returned to Boston and surprised myself by BQ’ing (Boston Qualifying) there. I also paced the Flying Pig and came in third in my age group at the Med City Marathon. I’m returning this year to pace the Queen Bee. I will be sporting my Bee outfit and pink boobie socks. All seriousness aside, it’s all about having fun and enjoying the day, celebrating life and achieving the finish line.”

Her determination to return to the Queen Bee is an example and inspiration for anyone to follow. “We all have obstacles that we have had to overcome to reach the finish line.” Erin said. “My goal is to inspire other women and educate them because cancer does not discriminate. Ten minutes to get a mammogram could save your life.”

The Bikers who Keep the Queen Bees Safe
By Betsy Ross, Contributing Writer

They are 20-somethings, and they are 60-somethings. They are triathletes and Iron(wo)men, they are business leaders and they are volunteers. They have diverse backgrounds, but they have one thing in common: For the fourth year, they will come together next weekend for the Queen Bee to keep the runners and walkers of the half marathon and 4-Miler safe. 

Most of them are involved in the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) Ride to Cure, raising funds to find a cure for Type One Diabetes. The local chapter has the largest ride team in the country with 130 bikers, and their rides have raised more than $550,000 each year over the last several years. 

Many of these riders have been volunteering for years to be bike escorts for the Flying Pig Marathon and its related events, including the Beer Series. So when the Flying Pig started the Queen Bee four years ago, it was natural for these women to be part of this female-centric event as well. 

“I know for myself, with the team I ride with, with JDRF, we have a great camaraderie,” said Arohanui Bender, the JDRF and Queen Bee Bike Team leader.  “And it’s wonderful to be out there and be inspired by each other to do these kinds of things that probably in generations before, was something that only men took part in.”

Not only do bike escorts ride with the leaders of both events, they keep the route clear for runners and walkers, watch for any medical issues and keep an eye on traffic at busy intersections. Maggi Atterbury, who bikes for both JDRF and Fifth West Cyclery, will be leading the bike escort team on Queen Bee Saturday. 

“I’m a supporter of women’s events,” she said, “and they were starting the Queen Bee and they asked for cyclists to help monitor the event, and I was happy to help.” 

It’s a responsibility these women take seriously. If no one notices the bikes, that means they’re doing their job to ensure a smooth event. For these bikers, they’re proud to be an example of what can be accomplished, no matter the age or background. 

“We can run these marathons,” Bender said, “we can do Ironman, triathlons, century rides and it is wonderful for us to be out there to support and inspire and to be inspired ourselves to continue on, regardless of age or backgrounds. Whether we’re jocks or athletes, we can just get out there and give it a try.”