Schoolmates to reunite at the starting line

The Mt. St. Joseph five (from left): Deirdre Barr, Genevieve O'Mara, Chelsea Clark, Jen Havard, and Meredith Taylor.
The Mt. St. Joseph five (from left): Deirdre Barr, Genevieve O'Mara, Chelsea Clark, Jen Havard, and Meredith Taylor.
Posted: May 04, 2013

Five girls met as freshmen at their first cross-country practice at Mount St. Joseph Academy in Flourtown in 2003. They were all from different towns, new to the school and nervous, just looking to fit in.

What happened to them has happened many times in many places. A bond was formed, friendships that may last a lifetime.

"Back in our high school days, we bonded over Coach [Karen] Orr's merciless workouts and on long runs at Valley Green," said Genevieve O'Mara, now of Boston, "and that bond has remained strong ever since!"

"I have such vivid, vivid memories of our high school days at the Mount and the most fun and hilarious times with these four girls," said Deirdre Barr of New York City. "Lunch periods reviewing the past weekend's fun and planning the next, grueling track practices, cramming for tests . . . the list goes on and on."

They all went to different colleges, from Dartmouth to Notre Dame. Three live and work in New York, one in Boston, and one locally. They don't see nearly enough of one another, but the bond endures. They have decided to run together - just as they did back in the day - in this year's Broad Street Run, sponsored by Independence Blue Cross.

"It's amazing to me that we've remained so close," said Meredith Taylor, another New Yorker. "My college friends always tell me they wish they had [the friendships] I do."

"Running was so central to our lives in high school," said Chelsea Clark of Lower Gwynedd. "But I can't remember the last time we all ran together."

"The further we get from our days at the Mount," said the third New York resident, Jen Havard, "the more difficult it becomes to get five of us in one place. Being in different cities, jobs, and places in our lives has made it more challenging, but each of us knows that friendship like this is hard to come by."

None of the women could recall who had the idea to reunite. "We were out to brunch at the holidays; that's really the only time each year we're all together," Clark said. "I know it started out as a joke."

Then they realized 2013 would mark 10 years since they met. "And then it wasn't a joke," Clark said. "Running a race would be the perfect way to celebrate the anniversary of our friendship."

The celebration could occur in only one spot.

"Broad Street has always been on my radar," O'Mara said. "Thankfully, Meredith made the executive decision to go ahead and register us as a group."

"Philly is still home for each of us," Clark said. "It just seemed fitting to come back to run the city's most iconic race."

Another point of agreement among the quintet: They're not exactly in what they consider "running shape."

"I'm excited we have the chance to see each other," said Havard, "but I think we're all a little apprehensive of running 10 miles."

"We could have run a 5K or a shorter race and still had fun," Clark said. "But we were looking for something challenging enough to show our commitment to each other, and celebrate what got us there: running. What better place than Broad Street?"

The plan is to congregate at Havard's childhood home in Maple Glen, Montgomery County, for a pasta dinner Saturday night, then all meet on the starting line Sunday morning - and go for a drink afterward.

For 24 hours they'll be back together, whole, as a group, as if nothing had ever changed.


See more at www.inquirer.com/health_science/ and www.philly.com/

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Contact Robert Senior at robertjsenior@gmail.com

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