BYFIELD — Every stride of the Boston Marathon’s 26.2 miles traveled by Byfield resident Julie Ogden on Monday will be fueled by a desire to end a disease, honor family both living and passed and celebrate a personal milestone.
It was a perfect coming together of reasons that drove Ogden to begin training for her first marathon: last year’s tragedy, her recent 50th birthday and a desire to raise money for the fight against macular degeneration.
“It’s a degenerative eye disease that is the leading cause for blindness in the elderly,” Ogden said. “But in my family it has affected us earlier.”
Ogden has seen two grandmothers, an aunt and her mother become legally blind by the disease in their 70s. She also saw a second aunt be affected by the condition later in life. While genetic, the disease cannot be guaranteed to affect Ogden later in life, though it’s a possibility that worries her.
“I get my eyes checked all the time, but it’s one of those diseases that’s genetic but not predictable,” she said. “But I’m worried. Very worried. There’s just no way of knowing yet.”
Ogden knew that if there was any year worth running the Boston Marathon — this was it. Everything came together at the right time. Once deciding to run, Ogden chose to dedicate the experience to her mother, who at the age of 84 is blind from the disease she was diagnosed with in her 60s.
Next, she sought ways to find a bib number. Immediately, and appropriately, she turned to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary’s Marathon Team, an organization at which she spent many years volunteering.
“I used to volunteer at the Schepens Eye Research Institute, which is now part of Mass. Eye and Ear,” Ogden said. “I have been periodically involved for a long time trying to have some impact with this disease.”