TB12 Spotlight: Wendy Button

Running has played many roles in Wendy Button’s life. Throughout her career as a speechwriter for Thomas Menino, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards, Wendy used running to clear her head and stay healthy. Then, when Wendy’s mother started showing signs of Alzheimer’s, running became a way for her to protect her own brain from cognitive decline.

Now, at 50 years old, running has become something even bigger than that: a way for Wendy to honor others at the Boston Marathon with the TB12 Foundation Team

Wendy trained bib-less for four months — but hope kept her going

In November 2018, Wendy decided “this year was the year.” But at the same time, she knew that taking a bib for the Boston Marathon was no small feat. For that reason, she started her training “quietly” as a personal test.

“Each bib is so coveted,” she notes. “And [participants] try so hard to be a part of [the event]. I didn’t want to take a bib early on and then fall apart at mile nine or ten.”

Drawing on the knowledge of friends who had run the event before as beginners, Wendy started her training schedule. Despite not having any guaranteed spot in the Boston Marathon, Wendy believed in her efforts.

“It was one of those things,” she says. “If you do the work, it usually pays off. So I just kept going, kept with the schedule, kept running.”

Passing all her own tests, Wendy decided she was ready

By February 2019, four months of training had left Wendy unscathed. To her, this was the green light to apply for a charity team bib. However, at this point, nearly every charity team was already full. Finally, Wendy found the one remaining bib — for the TB12 Foundation Team.

“I guess that’s destiny,” thought Wendy, and she applied.

In case things fell through, Wendy was ready to run on her own — that is, not for charity. But she really didn’t want to do that, because to her, the Boston Marathon was more than just a personal goal.

“I didn’t want to run for myself,” she says. “I wanted to run for charity, something bigger.”

For two weeks after her application, Wendy’s faith in her purpose never waned; she kept up her training. Even her hardest training run — 20 miles from Hopkinton to Heartbreak Hill — she ran without certainty. Finally, on March 7th at 12:13 PM, an email broke the silence. Her application went through, and she was a confirmed member of the TB12 Foundation Team.

“I was thrilled,” she says. “It was a huge, huge weight off [my shoulders].”

Distance Running: An Exercise in Perspective

One of the things that has kept Wendy grounded throughout her training is a habit of reframing moments of discomfort within a bigger picture. Part of this bigger picture for Wendy is her experience as a speechwriter helping the late Mayor Menino address the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing.

“When the bombs went off, a couple of my friends were still in city hall, and I emailed them saying I’m here if you guys need help.”

Being aware of the struggles of the bombing victims and their families helped Wendy to keep her head up after her 20-mile run made it hard to walk downstairs.

“I couldn’t figure out if I was going to walk down my stairs or just sit and slide down because my quads hurt so bad,” she says. “But I thought, I have my two legs. There are countless people who don’t have the choice to do this…or still can’t because large crowds scare them, or they’re forever traumatized by loud sounds, or they just can’t get the right prosthetic limb to feel right. My aches and pains are minor.”

Not only do the events of 2013 give Wendy perspective on her pain, but they also give her something to run for.

“The victims and their families are with each and every one of us,” adds Wendy. “It’s an honor to run for them.”

A mother’s connection 

Having seen Alzheimer’s disease progress in her mother, Wendy became determined to delay its onset as much as possible in herself by making changes to her lifestyle. At the advice of her mother’s doctors, she adopted a plant-based, Mediterranean diet.

“I didn’t want to become a typical statistic in that category,” she says. “You might not be able to [completely] stop [the disease] if it’s genetic, but it matters to your health.”

It matters especially for women, she adds.

“Two thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women and women of color, and [researchers] don’t really know why. That’s why they’re really trying to get the word out for women that exercise is important — we have to make time for it. It matters to [your brain health].”

With a mind already geared toward healthy eating for the long-term, Wendy has found a lot of functional favorites in a TB12-aligned nutrition plan. To fuel her body for endurance, Wendy eschews the “old school pasta-eating” of traditional marathon training and instead opts for whole grains, gluten-free breads, and complex, plant-based carbs.

“[The traditional diet],” she says, “just didn’t feel right, so I’ve been doing a lot of brown rice and sweet potatoes. Linguini…just makes me want to take a nap.”

Among TB12’s smoothies, Wendy loves the green Almond Avocado and the Blueberry Muffin — which she prefers to turn into a Chocolate Blueberry Muffin. For simple, clean, unsweetened, and un-carbonated electrolytes on the road, Wendy enthusiastically recommends TB12’s.

“I would keep a stash of them,” she says. “As soon as I remember during the day, I’ll put a couple of squirts in a glass.”

Wendy’s Tips for Other First-Time Marathoners

If you’re interested in running your first marathon, Wendy has a few practical tips:

“See if someone can film you running, look at your gait and give you some suggestions about [your shoe],” she says, “just to get an expert opinion.”

In terms of motivation, Wendy believes anyone who truly wants to run a marathon will make time for it.

“If you really want to try to run a marathon, you’ll do it,” says Wendy. “You’ll figure out how to make that work. You’ll find a year to do it and then do it.”

run with us in 2020