Back on track

Christy Coleman Kirk, ’98, running in the 2023 Boston Marathon

As an avid runner, Christy Coleman Kirk, ’98, had a list of marathons she wanted to complete, and the Boston Marathon was at the top of her list. But in 2003, despite her youth and athleticism, she had a sudden stroke caused by an undiagnosed congenital heart defect after a training run.

In the aftermath, Kirk struggled to recover. Although her physical symptoms, such as reflexes and speech, were better within a few months, her emotional vulnerability from the scare lasted much longer and she hesitated to return to her normal routine. However, with coaxing from her husband, she slowly returned to running — and, eventually, even marathons.

The more she ran, the more it became key to her recovery and a symbol of her strength through her accomplishments. She completed the Boston Marathon seven times, including on the 10th and 20th anniversaries of her stroke. Not only did she check off another marathon, but she ran to celebrate her good health and her ability to run despite the challenges she had faced.

Years after her recovery, Kirk, a dentist in Sudbury, Massachusetts, continues to rely on running for stability after long days of patients and surgeries. It provides therapy for a healthy mind and exercise to maintain a healthy body.

“I think every individual needs to find the one thing that helps them de-stress that’s good for them at the same time because it’s a double reward,” she says.

Running is her daily therapist, and it’s her biggest long-term supporter. It got her involved in stroke awareness charities such as Tedy’s Team. It reminds her of the challenges she overcame. Most importantly, running gave her the courage to share her story and give others the hope she found after her stroke.

“Things are going to happen, but we come out of these things,” she says. “We’re way more resilient than we think.”

Every individual needs to find the one thing that helps them de-stress. It’s a double reward.