Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Best Friend and Dierks Bentley Inspire DB Congress Rep to Run Boston Marathon

Prepare to be deeply moved by fellow DB Congress rep, Nancy Eaton (Maine), as she tells her brave and inspirational story.

My Journey to the Boston Marathon
by Nancy Eaton

Nancy Eaton crosses the finish line of the 2016 Boston Marathon

I started running at the age of 47. I had just gone through a difficult divorce and my life consisted of working 50-60 hours a week in Boston as a nurse in Labor and Delivery and raising my six kids. There needed to be some sort of stress-reducer in my life. So I started running. The more I ran, the more I loved it. Running took me away from the stress of my life and helped me find inner peace. It took me out of my head for the hours I was able to squeeze into my week.

A couple of years after taking up running, a new nurse came to work on my unit. Her name was Amanda Turner Russell and we hit it off immediately. We both loved Disney, traveling, music, reading and nursing. She was a ray of sunshine on our unit, always smiling. She was one of the most incredible nurses I have ever met, always up for a challenge, caring for the most difficult of patients. She was also very very funny, always making us laugh over various situations. We bonded over our running and we started running Disney races together. She was all about the costumes and the characters, I was all about my finish time.

Amanda and Nancy

Amanda loved taking pictures of sunrises, we worked the night shift. Every morning she would go to the roof of our building and snap a picture of the sunrise. If I was on vacation or off that night, I would awaken to the sunrise picture of the day on my Facebook page! I loved that she was always trying to make me smile even when we weren’t together.

Pushin' comes to shove, and hey I'm a fighter...

We also bonded over our love of music. I fell in love with Dierks Bentley’s music the first time I heard him sing "Home" at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. My daughter is a midshipman there and she asked me to come to the concert. The respect he showed to all the midshipmen was something I will never forget. I started downloading all of his music and running to it. Right now I have about 20 miles of his songs on my iPod. If I feel like I can’t finish my run I put on Riser. It reminds me that I can do anything I set my mind to.

I went to my first real concert in the summer of 2015. My daughter and I drove to Virginia Beach from Maine and stood in the pit for hours waiting for Dierks to perform. Amanda loved and supported my musical obsession, patiently waiting for me to access the Ticketmaster app on my phone when we were in Disney so I could get tickets to another Dierks concert.

Nancy, Dierks Bentley, Nancy's daughter

In the Fall of 2015, Amanda decided to run the Boston Marathon for our Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center hospital team, hoping to raise $7,000 for our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). When she asked me to join her I told her I was trying to qualify for Boston so I would pass, but that I would donate to her cause.

On December 23, 2015, Amanda was on a training run when she was hit by a car driven by an impaired driver. She sustained severe head injuries and was declared brain dead 5 days later. Her organs were harvested and she passed away on Dec 29th at the age of 32. She left a young son, her family, and hundreds of friends devastated. At her bedside Amanda’s Mom asked me to run the marathon in her place. After breaking my foot twice in 2015 I was unsure if I could complete a full marathon so soon, but I knew I had to try. I felt as though I had to do this one last thing for my friend.

Brave, gotta call it brave...

So I began training, increasing my miles every week, getting ready for the Boston Marathon. In an attempt to bring me inspiration during my run I started collecting signatures of country singers on my running shirt. Dierks was the first person to sign my shirt! Amanda would have loved that! It has been an emotional couple of months. Running for her has brought me great joy, brought the nurses on my unit closer together, but it has also made me miss her even more. Every long run I would think about how it should have been her who was running, not me.

After weeks of training, Monday April 18th finally arrived! This was my 8th marathon and I have to say that it was definitely my hardest. It was hot, started later in the day, and we ended up running into the wind for the last 9 miles or so. I wore a Disney sparkle skirt in memory of Amanda. The race course was covered with friends, family, coworkers cheering me on. It was like running a Disney race, stopping for pictures along the way. The love I felt while running was incredible.

At mile 25 my daughter helped me me put on the wings that Amanda had made for me when we ran the Dopey challenge at Disney, 4 races in 4 days--it was the January after the Boston Marathon bombing. They truly carried me to the finish line on April 18,  2016. Not sure my legs and feet were working anymore!

I was also greeted with a sign that I should run faster because Dierks Bentley was at the finish line. Between the wings and the Dierks music in my ears, I was able to complete this race, receiving a hug from two more of my kids who were waiting right at the finish line.

Amanda’s Mom, sister and Godmother were at the finish line as well. As soon as possible I gave them Amanda’s bib and medal! In her life she touched so many people and continues to do so after her death.  Her fundraising page has raised more than $26,000 for the NICU, her heart, lungs and kidney are giving life to others, and her beautiful soul is present in every sunrise. 

Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your incredible story!  I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda briefly in November when she and you had just finished your Disney 4 races in 4 days. Just as Amanda was in inspiration to you, you are an inspiration to your fellow DB Congress reps! We're so proud to have you on our team representing and promoting Dierks daily!

DB Congress Chair (FL)


  1. Nancy what an honor to have you in our
    "Dierks Family". God Bless...hope to meet you one day at a concert.