THE BOSTON GLOBE
If ever there was a moment made for the cameras, this was it. Bobby Carpenter and Denna Laing had just completed the Boston Marathon, and the television cameras swarmed in. Race director Dave McGillivray appeared shortly after and presented them with their race medals, much to the delight of the crowd that had formed.
It was a well-deserved honor for the duo, who heard the cheers all along the course.
“There was so much support,” said Laing. “I felt like every person knew my name.”
There were some fans who thought they knew her name, but didn’t quite hit the mark.
Laing suffered a severe spinal cord injury at the 2016 Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium. The injury left her paralyzed. Carpenter decided last summer to approach the Laing family about running to raise money for Journey Forward, a Canton-based nonprofit focused on improving the lives of people with spinal cord injuries.
The 18-year NHL veteran had played hockey with Denna’s father, Dennis, when he was growing up in Peabody and wanted to push Laing in a wheelchair along the course. Laing was eager to participate, given that she has worked at Journey Forward in her rehabilitation from her injury.
Training would not be easy. With their conflicting schedules, they were seldom able to work together. Instead, the 53-year-old Carpenter prepared by pushing a wheelchair with weights and sandbags during his practice runs. They did compete together in a half-marathon in the Clearwater Distance Classic in Florida.
Despite not being able to train together, Laing was not concerned about their chances of reaching the finish line.
“Hockey players aren’t usually runners, but for whatever reason, I always had confidence in Bobby,” said Laing. “There was never really a doubt that we were going to finish.”
Bruins fans might remember the horrific knee injury Carpenter suffered in 1990 against the Montreal Canadiens, when he shattered his left kneecap after crashing into the boards. After missing the rest of the 1990-91 season, he would return to play eight more seasons in the NHL before retiring in 1999. This was the second year in a row that he ran the marathon.
“I feel fine. I haven’t had any issues at all,” said Carpenter when asked about the toll running 26.2 miles takes on his knee. “I guess the every day pains of a runner, your quads get really tight going downhill, but no, it was good.”
Carpenter had a different approach than when he ran last year.
“I think last year, I put a time in my head. I said I wanted to break four hours, so I was constantly watching the clock,” said Carpenter. “This one here, we just wanted to finish, so we just enjoyed it. We saw all of the people and read all of the signs. So it was a lot more enjoyable than last year, that’s for sure.”
The warm temperatures didn’t slow them down.
“It went really well. I think any time the sun came out and it started to get hot, the clouds would come back,” said Carpenter. “We had some good winds behind our back to keep us cool. I thought it went extremely well.”
Because of her injury, it is difficult for Laing to control her body temperature, but that was not a concern Monday.
“I actually like the warm weather, so that was good for me,” said Laing. “The only thing that I don’t like is that I can’t see Bobby, so I kept having to check in on him. But it was hard to talk to him because everybody was screaming.”
Laing seemed happy to trade the lack of communication for the crowd support.
“It was everything that they told me it was going to be and more,” said Laing. “Definitely a highlight was the last mile, but it was all support all the way. Thank you to all of the people that were cheering us on.”