After choosing to run a half marathon as her honors English project last year, Junior goes for the gold, and the grade

Goosebumps riddling her arms, fog invading the atmosphere and laces tied tight, junior Clare Rolinger listened intently to the national anthem as she cherished her last moments before the Des Moines Half Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 16.

But unlike seasoned runners, Rolinger started this personal journey for a school project. “I actually decided to train for a half marathon last year for my Honors English 10 project with (Michelle) Rathe, because we were supposed to do this this project on a thing we’d never done before, and I thought ‘Hey, I like running, but I’ve never run a half marathon, so that’d be cool,’” Rolinger said.

While she turned her project in way back in May, the work didn’t stop there. “After the project was over, I hadn’t run it yet. I’d been training for a couple months, and I didn’t want to just give up on it, so I trained over the summer and worked really hard, and I signed up for the half marathon, and the rest is history,” Rolinger said, a smile spreading across her face as she recalled her personal triumph and hard work.

When she was tired and weary around mile 6, Rolinger got by with a little help from a new friend. “Around mile 6, or mile 7, this lady named Kay Cervetti came up behind me,” she said. “I was kinda struggling around mile 6 or 7. I was getting tired, and it was wearing down on me, and she came up and she started talking to me. She told me she knew my dad, and she ended up running the last 7 miles with me, into the finish. I don’t know if I could’ve done it if she hadn’t shown up. It was amazing.”

Cervetti said, “I recognized her as one of the Rolinger girls, but I didn’t know her first name. Her family was cheering her on, and they were so supportive. She was walking when I came up from behind, and I asked her if I could walk with her. I had run the day before in Kansas City, and I know how hard it can be to run alone, so I struck up a conversation with her. We talked about family, running, goals, theater and the upcoming play in November. “

Cervetti said she admired how Rolinger kept a positive attitude even as she faced the trials of the half marathon. “She was so supportive on the course. She was tired, but every time she would pass someone, she’d say ‘good job,’ ‘you’re doing great’  or ‘you’re almost there.’ She is so kind, funny and determined.”

But Rolinger’s actions were not the only notable thing about the race to Cervetti. Cervetti was amazed by the constant support from Clare’s mother, Lisa Rolinger, as Clare ran. “She kept looking at her phone as her mom was sending her encouraging messages. Her face lit up every time she got a new one. It was the greatest thing ever,” Cervetti said.

“Every half mile I would get a text from my mom or something, or two texts. They would say things like ‘we’re so proud of you!,’ ‘we love you Clare!,’ ‘you can do it!,’ just random things like that, and it was so precious. I love my mom, a lot, and my dad and grandparents were there, and so many people while I was doing it were sending me messages to support me, and that was just one of the things that kept me going,” Rolinger said.

At the end of the day, Rolinger finished all 13.1 miles that a half marathon entails, and by crossing the finish line she was finally fulfilling the hope she had when she first started the project in the spring.

“It was an amazing experience, I learned so much from it,” Rolinger said.

“We just kept counting down the miles together. When she crossed the finish line I wanted to cry. She had done it! It’s not a feeling she’ll forget,” Cervetti said, speaking on her own pride of Rolinger for persevering throughout the race.

One thing’s for sure, Rolinger agreed: this is not something she’ll forget about anytime soon. “I’m really proud of myself. Training was really hard, but it was so worth it,” she said as she lightly stretched her calves out, breathing slowly. Rolinger’s half marathon was a lot of work, but the soreness isn’t the only thing that lingers for her — the memories do too.

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