During Meghan McCarthy's two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer, certain words and phrases floated through the halls of Tewksbury Memorial High School, the basketball court, and cyberspace.
Among them, a certain phrase managed to overshadow any negativity felt around her condition at the time, and long thereafter ... Tewksbury Tough.
On Sunday morning, a crowd of racers came together to honor Meghan by participating in the second Annual Meghan McCarthy 5K Road Race. Some walked, some ran, but of the many who wore numbers that morning, all of them had a single goal in mind -- reverence.
"I wasn't running for time," said Richard Kirby. "I ran because it was a good cause. (Meghan) was in the grade ahead of me. I really didn't know her that well, but I just wanted to show my support."
In all, 464 people ran in this year's event. This was shy of the expected turnout, which race officials speculated would bring in around 600 racers. A total of 586 ran last year. Turnout for morning race was likely hurt by Tewksbury High participating in the State Championship hockey early in the afternoon.
Organizers tried to offest the scheduling clash by offering two start times.
Of those 464 (of whom 286 pre-registered), 352 ran in the first race, which took place at 9 a.m., after Joe Russell, the DJ, blared the National Anthem outside the High School, and everyone stopped to look at the flag.
Lee McCarthy, Meghan's mom, and her partner Ron, stood at the finish line for both races. Also on the finish line were the race officials, who also put together last year's 5K Benefit, numerous parents and friends, and Meghan's grandfather, Andre Paquette, who heads a campaign in Meghan's honor that he hopes to get off the ground in short order.
"It's going to be called Meghan's Miracle, One Million Voices for Childhood Cancer Research," said Paquette, of Laconia, N.H. "We are going to have a website, a Facebook page, and a YouTube video." The campaign's motto is "Expand the Miracle."
Casey Doherty, who also helped to put the race together last year, sported a shirt bearing the phrase "In Loving Memory of Meghan McCarthy."
"We made the shirts last year for Meghan for the first race we did," Doherty explained. "They went on sale and all the benefits went to Meghan, it was a good cause."
Doherty went on to say that Meghan was "something to smile about," and that she had played basketball with her for most of her life. "One of (Meghan's) quotes is 'Have Faith, Expect Miracles.' I firmly believe that."
Shirts from this year included pink cursive lettering against a gray background, the phrase "2nd Annual Meghan McCarthy 5K Road Race" on the front, "Tewksbury's Toughest," likewise, in cursive, on the back.
John Blanchette of Dracut, formerly of Tewksbury, who was unable to attend the race, was nostalgic while communicating with Patch correspondents.
"I didn't know her well," began Blanchette, "but her courage and the courage of her family inspired me greatly ... that they were able to carry on with (such a) burden, and help others and achieve dreams when (things were so hard)."