“When she got sick, I don’t think I could really comprehend what was happening. To this day, it is still the worst thing any of us have experienced. You feel so helpless. You can be there for moral support, but you can’t fix it.”
Following Alexandra’s passing after a battle with the illness, it was sports that kept McLaughlin close to her friend, and gave her a way to honor Alex.
“When we won our (Division 1) state (basketball) title (2003) it was on the one-year anniversary of Alexandra’s death,” said Arianna. “That was very powerful. Alex never got to play high school sports, but it felt like something we did together.
“When Ashley was a captain the next year, she would always link Alex into her inspirational speeches. Over the years we have found time to be emotional and really express that love we have for each other.”
Basketball proved to be a major part of McLaughlin’s life at Andover and beyond. She finisher her outstanding career high school career with 1,150 career points. She then played four years for Division 1 Holy Cross, starting her final three seasons.
But after graduating from college in 2008, she noticed something was missing.
“I have played sports all of my life,” said McLaughlin, who moved back to Andover last year. “Since my college career ended, that competitive fire, that working towards a goal has been missing. Running the Marathon has always been something I wanted to accomplish, and I thought that would be a great accomplishment.”
But as a life-long basketball player, training for long-distance running presented a new and unique challenge.
“Basketball really helped me with the mental discipline aspect of it,” she said. “But not really the physical part. During the week I have been doing a lot of cardio and speed workouts. Saturdays are my long run day. I’ve run 18 and 20 miles. But the hardest was actually 15 miles. Mentally, running for that long is tough. But once you get over that, 18 is just a little longer.