A marathon, a ring and memories of mom

Tawnia Provost, of Saranac Lake, shows her Philadelphia Marathon finisher’s medal earlier this week. The medal, pictured below, includes a working replica Liberty Bell, complete with crack. (Enterprise photo – Justin A. Levine)

SARANAC LAKE — Tawnia Provost was a little worried that a necklace carrying the ashes of her mother would become an issue during the 24-year-old’s recent running of the Philadelphia Marathon, but the locket stayed in place for the whole race.

Provost finished her first marathon in mid-November, and then got engaged the next day in what can only be described as a once-in-a-lifetime weekend. The Saranac native completed the 26.2-mile course in 3 hours, 47 minutes and 48 seconds. Out of 11,992 racers, she placed 2,634 overall and 99th in the 20-24 women’s age group.

And while Provost was happy with her time, it was a weekend of emotional highs. She said she picked Philadelphia because the race benefits a cancer charity. And after losing her mom Rebecca to esophageal cancer five years ago, Provost said any race she enters has to serve a greater purpose.

“When I decide on a race, it has to be sponsoring something that I believe in,” she said. “I won’t go do a color run just to do a color run — it has to be a not-for-profit. So when I looked at races for my timeframe, I had New York City and Philadelphia.

“I wanted to do something big to keep myself motivated because it’s a whole weekend. The whole city was amped up about it, and when you Google ‘Best First Time Marathon,’ Philly always comes up.”

Tawnia Provost's Philadelphia Marathon finisher’s medal includes a working replica Liberty Bell, complete with crack. (Enterprise photo – Justin A. Levine)

Provost said a previous charity running effort convinced her that she could complete a marathon, but added that the flatness of the Philadelphia course held an appeal as well.

“It was unlike anything else in this world,” she said. “When I crossed the finish line, I was like ‘I could do this again!’ Not consecutively, I need some time (to recover), (but) I did not have an ounce of pain that entire race.

“The people who were around you kind of push you too. There were blind people that were running it that were tethered to people; there were veterans; there were people carrying flags. It was so awesome.”

Provost said that training for the race was also life-affirming.

“There were times when I would have a glass of milk in the morning and say ‘Oh, I can’t run this afternoon,'” she said. “‘Oh, it’s raining, I can’t run this afternoon.’ But in order to get through that marathon, I knew I was going to have to put the training in.

“I knew that I had to get it done or else I was going to regret it. I was learning to push what I thought my boundaries were.”

Provost said she was running six days a week, tallying between 60 and 70 miles per week in the lead up to the race. But finishing the race was just the first of a couple positive aspects of a weekend she’s unlikely to forget.

The day after the race, Provost’s boyfriend Garrett Vermette added to her hardware haul for the weekend.

“I’ve been messing with him, saying ‘This finger keeps getting lighter and lighter,” she laughed. “We had talked about it (and) everyone was like ‘He’s going to do it at your marathon,’ so I kind of ran with my hand contorted so blood wouldn’t build up and swell my finger.

“And then he didn’t do it.”

But the next morning, as they were leaving the hotel for breakfast, Vermette popped the question and Provost left Philly with both a finisher’s medal and an engagement ring. Provost said her next marathon is currently on hold until nuptials can be planned, but said they were shooting for spring or fall 2020.

“It was a big weekend,” she said.

And although her mom passed away five years ago, Provost said she had a couple reminders of her at the race.

“I actually have a screenshot of a message from her from when I signed up for my first half-marathon that says ‘I’ll be at the finish line,'” she said. “And she ended up passing away two months before it. That’s something I look at often, right before a race especially.

“She was at all my (track) meets she could be at when I was in high school, and she supported me. I have a necklace with her ashes in it. It’s a heart and it’s kind of heavy so I thought it might be tough to run with. But it stayed in place the whole time, for the entire marathon.

“A couple of times I had to touch it and say ‘I can do this’ … so I’m sure she was with me.”