Abigail Tooker of Naugatuck planned to run last year’s Marine Corps Marathon with her older brother Matthew. They trained together, but just two months before the run, and his sister decided she couldn’t run the race without him.
A year later, Abigail, 23, is once again training for the Marine Corps Marathon.
“I'm running the marathon in honor of my brother to keep doing something he did,” Abigail said. “When I’m running, I’ll be thinking about the memories I have and how all of our Marines and soldiers give us the opportunity to run races like this.”
With her brother on her mind, Abigail will run the marathon, her first, on Sunday, Oct. 28, near Arlington National Cemetery. While running 26.2 miles is a daunting task, Abigail knows she will be able to visit her brother at the end: Matthew Tooker, along with thousands of other military men and women, is buried at Arlington. After Abigail’s run, she and her mother will bring flowers to the grave of the former Marine.
The urge to run came over Abigail when she saw her brother complete the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon.
“When I saw him running for Hope for the Warriors, I was inspired,” Abigail said. “When I run, I think of them and if they can do it wounded, with prosthetics, then I can.”
Training both mentally and physically is important to Abigail. Her schedule is busy between finishing her college education at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven and working as a program director for Jenny Craig. Her mother says Abigail is always on the go and has a competitive edge.
“She doesn’t have a slow speed,” Anne Tooker said.
Along with the memory of her brother, music keeps Abigail motivated during her training, especially on longer runs. “I love David Guetta and his new album. That gets me pumped up, but I usually listen to house music,” she said.
She also believes in running in style. She wants to stand out from the crowd of 30,000 runners and will be wearing her bright orange-laced sneakers with pink rhinestone stick-ons of a crossbones and New England Patriots logo.
“They’re wicked special,” she said, adding that her favorite running outfit consists of her lulu lemon pants and running jacket. “Running clothes make a difference. They are usually plain and boring. You want to look cute and girly.”
But David Guetta and lulu lemon aren’t Tooker’s only supporters. “When I am running and feel like I can’t get through, I pray to God for support,” she said.
It helps, too, that Anne Tooker is always there to cheer on her daughter and help her stick to a healthy diet regiment. Anne and Abigail both stick to a raw diet.
“I eat a vegan diet and gluten free. I only have dairy in my coffee,” Abigail Tooker said.
And every morning, Abigail downs her mother's homemade “Green Monster” breakfast smoothies.
“My green smoothies are vegan,” Anne said. “No meat at all. They’re all vegetables. It’s smooth like a smoothie from Jamba Juice. They’re really good.”
Outside of home, Abigail’s trainer helps her get physically prepared. Kim Baldyga, 25, is impressed with Abigail’s athleticism.
“Abigail is a true athlete and someone women can look up to,” Baldyga said. “She is determined to finish all tasks that I give her, no matter how challenging, as well as push herself to complete races and events such as the marathon and Tough Mudder.
“I remember Abigail sent me a picture of her during the Tough Mudder with a log over her head, outrunning other men," Baldyga said. "I looked at it and was like, ‘Wow, she kicks butt!’ She is strong mentally and physically.”
Abigail says she is nervous for her first marathon, but her trainer is not.
“I have no doubt in my mind that Abigail will compete strongly and finish proudly,” Baldyga said. “She is doing this marathon for a purpose, just like everything else, and it will drive her emotionally and physically. She is ready for it, and she will be able to accomplish it.”