Fulfilling journey: Gibby Booth Jasper runs virtual Boston Marathon for herself, family

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  • Gibby Booth Jasper, accompanied by her eight-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier, Ruby, runs a virtual Boston Marathon in the fields behind her house in South Amherst on Sept. 12. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gibby Booth Jasper checks her progress on the Boston Marathon app during her virtual marathon in the fields behind her house in South Amherst on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Behind her is her wife, Shannon Jasper. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gibby Booth Jasper, left, has her race bib reattached by her wife, Shannon Jasper, during her virtual Boston Marathon in the fields behind their home in South Amherst on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gibby Booth Jasper, left, and her wife, Shannon Jasper, chat after she got help reattaching her racing bib during her virtual Boston Marathon in the fields behind their home in South Amherst on Sept. 12. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gibby Booth Jasper pauses to hug her eight-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier, Ruby, as she runs a virtual Boston Marathon in the fields behind her house in South Amherst on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Behind her is her wife, Shannon Jasper. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gibby Booth Jasper, left, is cheered on by her parents, Roger Booth and Rosalba Baroni-Booth, and her wife, Shannon Jasper, as she runs a virtual Boston Marathon in the fields behind her house in South Amherst on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gibby Booth Jasper, accompanied by her eight-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier, Ruby, runs a virtual Boston Marathon in the fields behind her house in South Amherst on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gibby Booth Jasper runs a virtual Boston Marathon in the fields behind her house in South Amherst on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 9/20/2020 9:02:30 PM

Over a year ago, Gibby Booth Jasper’s family suddenly expanded.

Booth Jasper and her now wife Shannon Jasper were preparing for their October 2019 wedding. Booth Jasper said they weren’t anticipating having children, but when Shannon’s then 5-year-old nephew Cameron needed temporary guardianship last summer, the couple welcomed him into their home.

“I sort of joked that most people get at least nine months notice, we got four days,” Booth Jasper recalled. “We went down to Maryland to bring him back and my life completely ended up revolving around him and his needs and making sure he had everything he had. … He needed a lot of love, support and time.”

Over time, this left Booth Jasper feeling more resentful about the lifestyle changes in becoming one of Cameron’s guardians. She said while talking about her feelings of resentment in therapy, she thought about running the Boston Marathon.

That thought came to fruition on Sept. 12 when Booth Jasper, 30, completed the virtual Boston Marathon.

The Amherst resident ran 20 miles along the Plum Springs trails and walked the remaining 6.2 miles to the finish line, crossing in 7 hours.

“It was an incredible experience. It’s certainly different than anything I’ve ever done because of the aspect of being alone,” she said. “Of course, I had my family, but not having the thousands of other runners and people in the crowd that I had been anticipating ... I like to do tough things and challenge myself to say, ‘See. You can do tough things.’”

Booth Jasper ran for The Michael Lisnow Respite Center Marathon Team. Based in Hopkinton, which is where the Boston Marathon begins, the center “provides emotional and physical support for individuals with disabilities and their families.”

“What really struck me was the ‘and their families’ part because it meant they understood the challenges the family members faced,” Booth Jasper said.

The challenge she faced was the addition of Cameron in her life.

“I was sitting in a therapy session and realized that I was getting really resentful and feeling horribly guilty,” Booth Jasper said. “And so just trying to grapple with this, I was explaining it to my therapist and I was like just, ‘I feel like my life is not my life anymore.’ We were talking about it and she said, ‘You know, what’s something on your bucket list that would feel really great to do?’”

Booth Jasper said that training and eventually running the Boston Marathon was a way for her to strike a balance between caring for Cameron and finding time for her own needs.

To raise money for the Respite Center Marathon Team, Booth Jasper created a race series called Crazy Snowman, which Cameron helped name. The logo was a snowman with his head in the middle of the body and different arms, which Shannon drew. Two of the three races went off without an issue. The pandemic turned the third race in March into a virtual run.

“It was pretty powerful because (Cameron) got really into it,” Booth Jasper said. “He developed a love for running, which was really sweet and wonderful to watch. He turned six last August. He turned seven this August. He was doing 5Ks with me before COVID and we were running those together. It was really sweet because it developed into much more.”

Shannon Jasper said her experience of seeing Gibby train for the marathon consisted of watching her wife sweat on the treadmill a lot during the past year.

“There was never any doubt in my mind she’d finish,” Shannon said. “When she sets her mind to something there’s no stopping her.”

Although Cameron returned to live with his mother in Baltimore before Gibby ran her virtual marathon, it was a memorable life experience for Booth Jasper and her family.

“It was bittersweet in that sense because it would have been really powerful if he was there,” she added. “This is one of the reasons why I really wanted to tell this story because I was basically his mom for a year. It’s huge and I think this affects a lot of people and it can be hard to give yourself permission to say, ‘It’s OK. I can choose to do it and take time away from something else that I could be doing with him.’”

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@gazettenet.com.



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