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Extra Miles | News, Sports, Jobs


BURNT HILLS — Once Samantha Roecker finishes her shift in the ER or outpatient clinic, she stays in her gown.

That’s because when the nurse’s workday is over, it’s time to run. And these days, she runs around in a blouse.

The 30-year-old Burnt Hills native is training for the 126th Boston Marathon on Monday. She’ll run the famous 26.2-mile course – from Hopkinton to Copley Square – in a stylish ensemble of Moxie Scrubs which she says are more breathable than the papery, boxy outfit you might imagine.

So almost every day, before and after work, she puts on her blouse and takes to the streets.

“At first, I just got a lot of weird looks,” said Roecker, who divides her time between her work at a Penn Medicine otolaryngology outpatient clinic and emergency room clinics that are part of her curriculum as a family nurse practitioner student at the University of Pennsylvania.

But Roecker’s run is no practical joke. It’s not even about breaking the Guinness World Record for being the fastest person to run a marathon in a nurse’s gown, which she will do if she beats a time of 3:08:22. (She’s likely to top that mark. This will be her 12th marathon — her third Boston Marathon — and her personal best is 2:29:59, set in Chandler, Arizona. She hopes to run Monday’s race in less than three hours.)

In truth, Roecker is running the Boston Marathon as a scrub to make a very serious point — and to raise money for an important cause. Roecker’s goal is to send a message of support to healthcare workers, especially regarding their mental health and wellbeing, who have been tested during the pandemic.

In addition to raising awareness, Roecker raises funds. Her campaign (https://tinyurl.com/mpmwvxwu) had already raised more than $35,000 on Saturday for the American Nurses Foundation’s Well-Being Initiative programs, supporting the mental health and wellness of registered nurses in the states. -United. The goal is to raise as much money as possible to support programs such as free therapy resources, expressive writing programs, financial counseling, podcasts and mobile apps dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. , as well as content dedicated to grief and bereavement.

“Really Dark Days”

His efforts have also inspired others. Case in point: Roecker’s former Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School teammate and current Burnt Hills cross-country and track coach Megan James created a fundraising walk to continue the mission through May, which is National Nurses Month.

Roecker got the idea to run in a smock after seeing that one of his closest friends from Burnt Hills needed help. Roecker said she and her friend — whom she wouldn’t name — met in high school biology class and quickly bonded over their desire to pursue a career in health care.

Both have done it – Roecker as a nurse in Philadelphia and the friend as a medical assistant in New York.

When the crush of COVID-19 cases arrived in New York, it demoralized many healthcare workers, including Roecker’s friend. The friend was transferred to work in a COVID intensive care unit.

“She suffered a lot from the trauma,” said Rocker. “She was dealing with so many deaths and was the only one telling family members that their loved one had died when they weren’t there. Just a lot of real devastation, and it was really hard for her to find mental health resources. She’s had some really, really dark days.

Roecker wanted to help. At first that meant trying to find options such as therapy for her friend. But mental health professionals were reserved, and the more Roecker looked, the less she seemed to find.

“She had given everything for patients for two years and it destroyed her. It just didn’t feel right to him and it was so frustrating to not have the resources available to help him,” said Rocker. “She was really trying to get herself out of such a bad place. It was so irritating to me that there was really nothing to help me.

So Roecker turned to the thing in her life that had always brought her peace: running.

“I was just thinking of a way I could use running to do something good and I kind of had this crazy idea. That’s where it all started,” she says.

The word is spreading

Roecker’s message took off. Following publicity that includes profiles in People magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer, she is now recognized on the street when she works out in her Moxies. People often clap and shout messages of gratitude.

“It’s so awesome. It just means it’s reaching the right audience,” she says. “I also got a lot of nice messages from people on Instagram that I don’t know at all who are nurses, just saying how grateful they are. It’s super unexpected and really sweet.

Burnt Hills track and cross-country coach James, who also plans to run the Boston Marathon, certainly heard the message. She first saw Roecker’s campaign on social media and it immediately resonated.

“Sam herself is an inspiration to all of us. As a runner myself, just watching her grow from a young age to where she is now is truly amazing to watch. . said James. “Having been one of her teammates, I know she works very hard and doesn’t just rely on talent to get where she is. So that’s part of it.

But the other element is that James, a physiotherapist, knows firsthand what it’s like to be a pandemic-exhausted healthcare worker.

“I wasn’t really working on the real front lines, but we were still feeling the effects. Day after day we got dressed…and it’s physically and emotionally very demanding,” said James. “We all know everyone has struggled, but healthcare workers have been at the forefront of this. They are such a cornerstone of our society and we need to take care of the people who take care of us.

To help support the cause, James is hosting a Burnt Hills Trail Fundraiser Walk on Sunday, May 1 from 3-5 p.m. The goal is for people to walk a suggested distance of 2.62 miles and offer a suggested donation of $26.20. All money raised will be added to Roecker’s tally collected for the American Nurses Foundation.

Roecker plans to be at the Burnt Hills event, in part because she wants to do whatever she can to help healthcare workers like her friend in New York. Roecker said that friend has since left the bedside to teach in a physician assistant program. But Roecker is convinced that her friend will be able to see her patients again.

As for Roecker, she thought she wanted to work in sports medicine, but she also enjoyed her time in the ER, even though her rotation in that setting began during the stressful time of the omicron cases that were beginning to peak.

No matter what she decides, running will remain at the heart of her life.

“There were definitely days when I was mentally exhausted, which sort of turned into physical exhaustion, and training didn’t go as well,” said Rocker. “But I just remembered that I generally felt better when I was running. It was my constant in difficult times.

Still, once the Boston Marathon is over, Roecker has no plans to run in scrubs again. She will leave them at the office.

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