Those who were out and about in Wilsonville the morning of Saturday, June 13, might have spotted Jaclyn Marston scampering down Wilsonville sidewalks and streets while donning a cap, gown, honor's chords and an Oregon State University shirt underneath.
The bells and whistles might have made the run a bit more challenging but the symbolism outweighed the discomfort.
For Marston, who graduated from Wilsonville High School in 2016, that day was supposed to mark her OSU graduation ceremony. Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to move back to Wilsonville and canceled an in-person graduation. Wanting to find another way to conclude this meaningful time in her life, Marston trained for the last few months to run what she dubbed a qua-RAN-15-K.
"This was more than just an email, a Zoom call — it was a culmination of something I've been working really hard toward and something I'm really proud of," she said.
Like so many people, the pandemic brought swift changes to Marston's life. During spring break, Gov. Kate Brown ordered the closure of all fraternal organization facilities and in-person OSU classes moved online. So instead of celebrating with her friends for the last few months of college, Marston finished her classes online from her home in Wilsonville. Since then, communication with friends just hasn't been the same as when they were living together in the same sorority house and she's disappointed she couldn't have more time with them.
"There was a lot of mourning and sadness. There's so much happening spring term in Corvallis and so many goodbyes to say. We got that taken away," Marston said. She added: "It robbed a lot away but I know there are a lot of worse things going on in the world now."
There was also the disappointment of not being able to hear her name called and receive her diploma at a graduation ceremony. Marston is graduating with degrees in business management and business administration with a focus in supply chain and logistics management.
But Marston didn't sulk. She began to reimagine a new kind of a celebration.
Remembering that she had been a part of a half marathon club in high school and having sisters who are serious runners too, Marston thought that working toward a goal of completing a 15-kilometer run would provide a more cathartic release than simply submitting her final assignment online or watching a virtual commencement.
"I'm a very goal-oriented person and like to accomplish things," she said.
Marston ran 3-4 times a week, starting with mile runs and then working her way up to eight-mile runs, similar to her training in high school.
During the run Saturday, Marston traveled near Mentor Graphics, past Meridian United Church of Christ, along Wilsonville Road past the Wilsonville Public Library, by Boones Ferry Park, through Villebois, past the South Metro Area Regional Transit (SMART) center and then back home all while wearing graduation attire. Despite gusts of wind, her cap didn't fall off once, she said. Meanwhile, friends, family and other onlookers provided encouragement.
"I got a lot of honks, claps, cheering and people saying 'Congratulations,'" Marston said.
Following the race, Marston was exhausted but celebrated the occasion with slices of cake with black and orange frosting (OSU colors) and a mimosa followed by a nap. She then planned to uninstall the phone application that alerts her about homework assignments.
With college concluded, Marston will begin her career soon, having recently accepted a position on a local Target executive team.
Until then, she has a month off to relax and plans to continue running during that time.
Despite anticlimactic conclusions, the 2020 graduating class will have a story to tell about how their final few months of college were wholly different from those of their predecessors.
And Marston plans to reminisce about her graduating run for decades to come.
"I want to tell kids and grandkids, even though I didn't get the graduation I imagined I got a graduation I was proud of," Marston said.
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