- Associated Press - Saturday, March 8, 2014

WALLINGFORD, Conn. (AP) - As Lynn Cella-Coyne stands at the starting line of a marathon, she can’t help but cry as she experiences a variety of emotions. When she crosses the finish line, she again breaks down and the tears stream down her face.

“Every marathon is an emotional experience for me … I get really nervous and scared. I start wondering, ‘Can I really do this?’” said Cella-Coyne, a Wallingford resident. “I try to calm myself down, but I cry because I’m excited and nervous at the same time.”

This year, Cella-Coyne, 39, will join thousands of other runners on April 21 at Main Street in Hopkinton, Mass., at the starting line of the Boston Marathon. After the bombings at the finishing area of last year’s race, many runners and spectators believe this year’s Boston Marathon is special - that it’s more meaningful.

During last year’s race, two bombs exploded on Boylston Street, killing three individuals and injuring over 260 others. The individuals suspected of being responsible for the bombings, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, led police on a manhunt that lasted over four days. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died during the manhunt; his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is in custody.

For Cella-Coyne, a member of the Wallingford YMCA Board of Directors, it’ll be her second time conquering the well-known Heartbreak Hill on the famous Boston Marathon course that takes runners through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brighton, Brookline and Boston. The race will be her fifth marathon overall.

The first time she crossed the finish line was in 2009, when she ran for The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. This year, she’s running for the YMCA of Greater Boston to support the organization’s teen programs.

“I love to run marathons. Boston was my first marathon,” Cella-Coyne said. “… It seemed like a natural fit. With the Boston Y, I just thought that would be the way to go.”

Cella-Coyne was born and raised in North Haven, but her parents are natives of Wallingford. Her mother worked at the Wallingford YMCA, and it was where she learned how to swim, Cella-Coyne said.

She initially joined the Wallingford YMCA in 2002 - when she moved to Wallingford - for its gym membership. But she soon realized how important the organization was to the community and how people made an effort to be involved in services and community events.

“There’s a lot of programs and I felt strongly about the services the Y was offering to teens,” Cella-Coyne said.

She had no intentions to run Boston this year until a friend told her the YMCA of Greater Boston had open spots on its team. The spots were given to the organization by the John Hancock Marathon Non-Profit Program, which “donates hundreds of guaranteed entries each year to select non-profits,” according to the website.

Through the John Hancock Marathon Non-Profit Program, the YMCA of Greater Boston received four entries into the race, according to Wendy Zinn, executive director of the Huntington Avenue YMCA - one of 13 branches of the YMCA in Greater Boston. When the organization was told it was given four spots, Zinn said she was “thrilled.”

It’s not the first time the organization participated in the marathon, Zinn said.

“This is not only a special year for the Boston Marathon, but it’s special for us this year,” Zinn said. “We’ve been involved with the water stations for years. We partnered with YMCAs across the state to just man the stations.”

Zinn added that it was exciting to interview candidates who wanted to run for the organization. Each had a personal story, Zinn said, and it was interesting to hear why they wanted to support the YMCA.

“All four candidates are very different,” Zinn said. “Lynn’s connection as a board member in Wallingford makes it a bit different … She has a local connection.”

Cella-Coyne said she has to raise $8,500, which will support the YMCA of Greater Boston’s teen programs, such as Safe Dating and Cyber Bullying. The programs are free and open to the public, but it to keep them running and offering them at no-charge, the organization relies on donations. As of Tuesday afternoon, Cella-Coyne has raised between $3,000 and $3,500.

She hopes to beat her previous times, and hopes to cross the finish line with a 10:30-mile pace.

It’s a normal reaction for Cella-Coyne to get emotional at the start and finish of a marathon. When asked if participating in this year’s Boston Marathon would resonate with her, Cella-Coyne paused before answering.

She was at her orthopedic surgeon’s office when the bombings occurred, Cella-Coyne said. Her phone went off every five seconds - at first, she ignored the notifications, but eventually checked, fearing it was a family emergency. They were text messages from friends and family who were asking if she was OK and if she ran in the race.

Cella-Coyne became obsessed with the coverage, she admitted, and added she didn’t realize how much of an affect the bombings would have on her.

“Based on the timing of when everything happened, I would have been ¾ away from the finish line,” Cella-Coyne said. “My friends and family, who come out to all my races, would’ve been close to where the bombs go off. It was awful. I was surprised at how affected I was by that.”

The bombings didn’t have a large role in Cella-Coyne’s return to the Boston Marathon. Instead, it was her desire to support the YMCA and to help teenagers, she said. It was her role as a member of the Board of Directors for the Wallingford YMCA that made her realize she wanted to help as much as she could.

“I’m just so proud,” she said. “Being in Wallingford, I know how important and how big of a role the Wallingford Y has in the community.”

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Information from: Record-Journal, https://www.record-journal.com

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