Marathon mom ready to run

October 20th, 2011
Leann Cavicchi and her son, Cody.

Leann Cavicchi and her son, Cody. Courtesy photo.

By Ruth Thompson | Wicked Local Norwell | Wickedlocal.com | October 20, 2011

Norwell — Leann Cavicchi said she has never been a runner.

“I hated running,” said the Norwell resident who is gearing up to take part in the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of the month. “I’m astonished I’m able to do this.”

The 26.2-mile event will take runners on a route through northern Virginia and the nation’s capital. Over 30,000 people are registered to take part in the marathon.

“The race is national and it’s huge,” she said. “There will be a gazillion people there to cheer us on. We go all through Washington, D.C. and end up at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”

The marathon caps over a year of determination and discipline that even she said sometimes still amazes her.

“I never thought I’d be doing something like this,” she said.

Cavicchi said it really all started when Cody, the youngest of her two children and her only son, announced he wanted to join the Marines the summer after graduating from Norwell High School in 2008.

“It didn’t totally shock me,” Cavicchi said of her son’s decision. “I knew he was serious because he was the one who made the call to the recruiter.”

She said the recruiter told Cody to think it over and to talk it over with mom.

“He was ready,” Cavicchi said. “I kept telling him he could change his mind. But this was what he wanted.”

That October Cody left for boot camp.

Cavicchi said that as soon as her son had told her he wanted to enlist, she began doing “all sorts of research online.”

“I came across www.recruitparents.com,” she said of a link she found on www.marineparents.com. “I can’t say enough about the people there. They really saved my life.”

She said Cody “sounded good” in his first letter home. But she didn’t see him for 13 weeks while he was at boot camp.

After boot camp, Cavicchi said Cody was sent to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

He had two weeks to spend with his family and friends after his graduation from combat training before he was on a bus to California where he was base stationed and starting school.

Cavicchi explained that Cody is non-infantry and that he qualified to be a field radio operator. He also ended up being a squad leader.

And, much to her relief, while on base in California Cody had access to a computer and a cell phone, luxuries he wasn’t allowed during boot camp and combat training.

“My heart dropped,” she said upon learning Cody was to be stationed in Okinawa, Japan. “There were so many places closer to home where he could have gone.”

However, a reminder of home in Norwell would catch up with Cody halfway around the world.

Cavicchi said the son of one of her good friends, Norwell resident Barbara Allen, who is a year behind Cody, was also stationed on Okinawa.

“There are 10 Marine bases on Okinawa and (Barbara’s son) Nick goes in to get a haircut on one base and who’s there but Cody.”

She said the two became fast friends.

Still, Cavicchi said Cody was eager to get over to Afghanistan.

“That was the reason he joined,” she said. “He kept volunteering to go over there.”

After returning home for three weeks last July, Cavicchi said Cody “started to prep us” about going to Afghanistan.

“I knew it was what he wanted,” she said. “But it scares the bejeezus out of you.”

Cavicchi fondly recalled Cody being home for Thanksgiving last year.

“It was the first time in three years,” she said. “It was awesome.”

But the joy was short-lived; he had to return to Camp Lejeune shortly after the holiday.

“It was hard to say goodbye,” Cavicchi said. “But you have to do it.”

She said Cody was “excited and nervous at the same time.”

Before Cody’s departure, Cavicchi said she saw him for the first time in uniform carrying a gun.

“Then they all get on the bus and go to the airport and they’re gone,” she said.

A friend, who had run the Boston Marathon, had a flyer with information about the Marine Corps. Honor Run and said she was going to run the 5K race in Cody’s honor.

“I thought, if my friends were going to run, I should probably do it,” she said.

Though Cavicchi said she was a physical education major in college, she admits to being no athlete.

On the other hand, Cody and his sister Ashley, 24, were skilled in sports.

Cody was one of Norwell High School’s star athletes, being named an MVP in hockey during his senior year. He also excelled at golf and lacrosse and earned 12 letters.

Ashley excelled in figure skating and was on the University of Massachusetts skate team. After she hurt her back, Cavicchi said, Ashley took up running.

Wanting to have something to focus on, Cavicchi said she bought an Ipod and Ashley downloaded a podcast that would have her off the couch and running a 5K race in seven weeks.

“It was like a progression,” Cavicchi said. “There was music and instructions.”

She ran her first race in May of 2010.

“I had T-shirts made up with Cody’s picture,” she said. “There were five of us running in pouring-down rain.”

She progressed from 5K races to 10K races to half-marathons.

“Throughout this Ashley was training me,” she said.

She ran a half-marathon in the snow on the Cape in February of this year.

She said she met a group of women, the Proud Mass. Marine Moms, and joined the group.

Two of the moms were running the Marine Corps Marathon, she said.

“I asked Ashley if I could do this,” Cavicchi said. “She said yes.”

Training was grueling.

Ashley said if anyone had told her two years ago that her mom would be running a marathon, she would have laughed in their face.

“Seriously, I did not expect her to ever get hooked on running,” Ashley said. “She was never out of shape but she definitely wasn't a runner. She thought I was crazy when I started training for a marathon and now she's running one.”

Cavicchi said she needed people to run with and discovered Colonial Road Runners in Abington.

“One member reached out and invited me to run,” she said. “She took me under her wing.

She praised her daughter, who is now doing triathlons, for being her coach.

“She’s amazing. I couldn’t do this without her.”

She said she’s been fortunate in that she hasn’t suffered a lot of the maladies that runners often do.

“I listen to my body, and listen to Ashley,” she said.

She said an ice bath after a long run is imperative. She also has received a lot of nutrition advice.

“The key is eating carbs the day before a long run.”

And there’s more good news in addition to the excitement of the marathon, she said. The last time she spoke with Cody he said he might be coming home for close to a month around Thanksgiving.

He’ll also be celebrating his 22nd birthday next month.

“Marines only do a seven-month tour,” she said, adding that his commitment would be complete in October of 2012.

She said once he is back for good, he wants to apply to college.

“Being in the service has made an unbelievable difference in him,” Cavicchi said of her son. “He’s more mature.”

Ashley agrees.

“Cody's changed a lot in the last three years since he entered the Marines,” she said. “I'm incredibly proud of him. It hasn't been easy and I never imagined my little brother would be deployed and in Afghanistan. I can't wait until he is home and safe, as well as all the other servicemen and women serving our country.”

Though Cavicchi said she’s “running this for him, and for all the Marines,” she’s also running the marathon to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund.

The Semper Fi Fund is a nonprofit set up to provide immediate financial support for injured members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.

“I am very proud of her and I know it's been a great thing for her to focus on while Cody is deployed. I can't wait to be there at the finish line when she comes across the line,” Ashley said. “I think running has been very good for her in many different ways and I like that it's something we can do together. I really enjoy it when I get a chance to run with her.”

Cavicchi said she gets nervous about the idea of the upcoming marathon when she’s lying in bed at night, thinking.

“But you get more confident with each run,” she said. “When Cody left for Afghanistan, I had to have a goal, mainly to keep my mind off things. But this has given me motivation.”

For more information on the Marine Corps Marathon, visit www.marinemarathon.com

For information on Colonial Road Runners, visit www.colonialrunners.org.

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