Jennifer Kosakowski: Running in Memory of Her Fiance

Running the NYC Marathon will be a way for Jennifer Kosakowski to remember her fiance, who was killed in a traffic accident, and raise money for an organization that combats similar fatalities

October 17, 2015

Running the NYC Marathon will be a way for Jennifer Kosakowski to remember her fiance, who was killed in a traffic accident, and raise money for an organization that combats similar fatalities. On Nov. 1, she will cross the finish line in Central Park for the first time since his death. 

When did you start running, and why? And what is the longest distance you have run? 

I actually started running as a child. I grew up in New Jersey and while my city did not have a track and field program for elementary schools, the neighboring city did. So my school started a track team and joined the neighboring city’s league. I continued to run track through high school. My reasons for running at that age were quite straightforward and uncomplicated: as a child and teenager, I was very athletic and quite quick, so track seemed the optimal sport for me.

I stopped running after high school, but began running again at age 30. I missed running and wanted to challenge myself in different ways athletically. I wanted to try 5Ks and 10Ks. It was also a great way to channel and release stress during graduate school.

The longest distance I have run is a half-marathon. I have never run a full marathon, so the 2015 NYC Marathon will be my first.

Why are you running the NYC Marathon? 

I am running the marathon for a nonprofit organization called Transportation Alternatives (T.A.). They aim to eliminate traffic crashes and pedestrian fatalities within the five boroughs, making New York City's streets safer for everyone. They also advocate for infrastructural changes to streets and intersections that are hazardous and where traffic crashes and hit-and-runs frequently occur.

I am running for T.A. because my fiancé, Doohee Cho, was killed last September in a hit-and-run. Doohee and I were not just romantically involved – we had been friends for 27 years. We attended kindergarten together, and then elementary school, high school, and even college, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. He and I were best friends, but as it turned out, we were both secretly harboring feelings for one another. Various obstacles always seem to preempt our ‘getting together’: I attended graduate school in California and he worked for an international financial institution that required him to travel extensively around the globe. Once we were both based in New York City again, we finally admitted our feelings to one another and we immediately decided to marry.

I am running this race to raise money for T.A. so fewer families and individuals have to suffer the tragic loss of a loved one, whether a partner, spouse, parent, child, colleague, or friend. I felt helpless after Doohee’s death as the arraignments and hearings occurred, and I wanted to do something – anything – instead of just sitting there and watching. When I heard about T.A. and the work they do, I decided I would run the NYC Marathon and fundraise for them in Doohee’s memory.

What is your goal on race day?  

Ha – to finish! Partly for myself, but mainly for Doohee, for everyone who has gone through this type of tragic loss, and to help prevent these tragedies from happening. With a race of this distance, I am just aiming to cross the finish line in a semi-respectable time.

Does this distance, or this particular race, have any special meaning for you?

Doohee loved NYC. He moved here immediately after graduating from Rutgers and never left. So to run the NYC Marathon, rather than Boston or Chicago, seemed the most appropriate one to run.

Also, Doohee used to attend the New York Road Runners races I ran in Central Park and wait for me at the finish line. For a while after his death, I stopped running completely because I could not bear to run a race when he would not be waiting for me at the finish line with that mischievous grin on his face. This marathon will be the first race I have run since his death. So in many ways, the finish line has taken on a new meaning for me: it is no longer an ending, but a beginning.

What gets you through your long training runs? 

Honestly, blasting classic Springsteen songs does a great job of motivating me to push harder. But, then again, I did grow up in New Jersey.

Have you had any particularly special moments during your runs? 

I was running a trail-based 10K in the midst of winter, right after a blizzard had hit the tri-state area. I was freezing and my shoes were soaked, but I kept going. I lost sight of the runners ahead of me, and I assumed I would probably come in last. Turns out, I not only came in first among the women, but overall. I had lost sight of the runners ahead of me because they had dropped out of the race because of the conditions.

Do you see any relationship between your work and your running?

At times, for everyone, work can be stressful. You want every project to be perfect, every event to go smoothly, every task to be completed with precision. Work and running seem to complement one another for me; work makes me want to run out those stressors, and running clears my head and dissolves all the stress that one normally accrues at work.