'A dream come true': 4 brain surgeries, 24/7 headaches won't keep runner from Boston Marathon

  • Nicole Wojnarowski of Elgin competes in the 2016 New York City Marathon. She was chosen to run in the charity category in the upcoming Boston Marathon and is raising funds for IMPACT Melanoma.

    Nicole Wojnarowski of Elgin competes in the 2016 New York City Marathon. She was chosen to run in the charity category in the upcoming Boston Marathon and is raising funds for IMPACT Melanoma. Courtesy of Nicole Wojnarowski

Updated 10/3/2021 8:53 AM

Headache sufferers generally take some medication and take it easy until the pain subsides. But when every day of your life starts and ends with a headache, the only choice left is to somehow rise above it, learn to cope and move on with your life.

Whether one would choose to run marathons as a coping method is an entirely different equation, but it's one Nicole Wojnarowski of Elgin has embraced for nearly a decade.


She'll be rewarded for that dedication with her first entry into the prestigious 26-mile Boston Marathon on Monday, Oct. 11.

Wojnarowski applied for -- and was accepted into -- the 125th Boston Marathon as a runner for a specific charity. She'll be running to advance her personal goals, but also to raise money for IMPACT Melanoma.

It's been a health marathon as well for the 46-year-old Wojnarowski, who has undergone four brain surgeries since she was diagnosed with an arachnoid cyst at the age of 22 while attending Northern Illinois University.

The headaches haven't gone away, likely from scar tissue damaging some nerve endings after so many incisions in the same spot on her scalp, she said.

"Unfortunately, the medications for the headaches cause issues with muscle development, so I thought even running a 5K would be out of the question," said Wojnarowski, who lives in Bowes Creek with husband Chris, not far from her parents Brian and Mary Henry.

Wojnarowski came to find out she could run significant distances, even with the headache pain.

"I started running because I wanted an outlet to get some exercise and challenge myself, because I hated running when I was in high school," said Wojnarowski, a 1993 St. Charles High School graduate. "I decided to try it, and after I ran a half marathon, I thought I could do a full marathon."

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Since then, she has navigated the Chicago Marathon eight times, the Los Angeles Marathon, New York City Marathon, Rock & Roll Seattle Marathon and the Disneyworld Marathon.

Her goal since taking up running has been to run in the Boston Marathon, a wish that came true when qualifying for the charity slot in the race.

Raising money for IMPACT Melanoma obviously is an important aspect for Wojnarowski, but she's looking to also have a strong finishing time. She ran 20 miles two weeks ago in the Fox Valley Marathon to prepare.

"My best time in a marathon is 4:39, so it (a good time) matters to me, but anything under five hours is good," she said. "If it were closer to 4:30 that would be great, but I'm not quite that strong yet."

Mostly, it will be an emotional visit to the country's most prestigious marathon. "When I was chosen through the charity application process, I was so excited, I just cried," Wojnarowski said. "It's a dream come true, for sure."


After so many years of scary moments in dealing with their daughter's brain surgeries, Brian and Mary Henry are proud and excited about Nicole's Boston Marathon entry -- but they won't be there to cheer her on.

"We have to say here and take of their dog," Brian said. "We'll have to maybe take in the event on some FaceTime sessions if her husband can catch her at certain spots on the run."

To donate to Wojnarowski's fund for IMPACT Melanoma, visit www.givengain.com/ap/nicole-wojnarowski-raising-funds-for-impact-melanoma/.

That's good pizza

Considering it's been in business in downtown Geneva for what seems like several decades, Papa Saverio's Pizzeria must know something about making a good pizza.

A lot of people apparently know this place has good pizza, but in all this time I had never tried Papa Saverio's. Why this is, I'm not sure. There are not many pizza places I have not tried at least once.

Well, I can now add Papa Saverio's to that list, having tried it at the Flavor Fare during Geneva's recent Festival of the Vine celebration.

Generally, I'm a fan of thin crust pizza, but the large slice I consumed at the festival had a thick crust. It did not hide the fact that this is a tasty pizza.

People measure pizza preferences by the sauce, cheese or its various ingredients. Or they find the crust to be the most critical factor.

It's a fairly simple equation for ranking pizza, but it also seems there has to be a high skill level regarding how long to cook the pizza and make all of those moving parts come together nicely.

The folks at Papa Saverio's, at 605 W. State St., have a pretty good handle on all of this.

Time to 'pull'

As a youngster, I'd watch my father and uncle yell "pull" and blast away at clay pigeons at a shooting range. More recently, I've done a story or two about the St. Charles Sportsmen's shooting range.

It was pretty clear that plenty of men, women and teens enjoy the activity.

Those trying to raise money for the Flag Day Monument in downtown Batavia are hoping experienced shooters and those wanting to try it will participate in an afternoon of clay shooting, starting with registration at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, at the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation at 14N322 Route 25 in Dundee Township.

The "Shooting for the Stars and Stripes" event will feature lunch from noon to 1 p.m. from Fernando's Street Kitchen, followed by an opening ceremony and safety briefing.

When clay shooting is completed at 3 p.m., the event concludes with a cocktail hour, raffles and auctions.

The Fox Valley Patriotic Association is sponsoring the event and also alerting participants about a nationwide ammunition shortage that will call for shooters to bring their own steel-only 12-gauge ammunition with a shot size of 6 or smaller.

Gun rental is free and McGraw is providing two boxes of 20- and 28-gauge ammunition per shooter.

Tickets for the event are available on the eventbrite.com site by typing "Shooting for the Stars and Stripes" on the search line.



Get articles sent to your inbox.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.