By Sabrina Schnur
BU News Service
BOSTON — Ellen Marrs was a runner, she just didn’t know it. Or at least that’s what her soon-to-be-trainer had said to the then 41-year-old.
Nearly ten years later, the mother of seven and entrepreneur calls her runs “26 miles of peace and quiet.”
After several dozen races, Marrs is making her way from Phoenix, Arizona, to Hopkinton next week for her very first run in the Boston Marathon representing the Boston Celtic Shamrock Foundation.
“I run now to teach my children and other people that they can achieve something that might seem impossible,” Marrs said. “It’s way more impactful for me to help and watch other people get to their goals. I know I can do it now. I know. I just want other people to see that they can.”
Marrs had tried to qualify for the Boston Marathon several times but continued to face injuries until a peer at a work conference informed her she could run for charity.
With a background in nonprofits, Marrs applied to run for Dream Big, a nonprofit that empowers girls through sports and physical activities, but was not selected for the team.
Marrs said she was crushed until the director of Dream Big passed on her information to the Celtic Organization who chose her for their team.
After the marathon, Marrs and her husband, Rick, plan to stay in the Northeast for the rest of April to teach their seven children, all of whom are homeschooled, about history. They plan to tour New England, then visit Nova Scotia, Canada.
“We don’t want to just show them in books; we want to show them the world,” Marrs said. “We’re using this as an opportunity.”
Rick will be driving their children across country from their home in Phoenix to meet Ellen in Boston. He said Ellen’s kind heart is what led them to such a big family.
In 2014, the couple had two kids and were fostering two more little girls. When the girls’ case was closed and they were able to be adopted, the family learned that the girls had two other siblings.
Rick said he and his wife worked to find a home where all four children, two with special needs, could be reunited. After months of unsuccessful searching, it was suggested the couple take all four themselves.
“I’m a big believer — and so is my wife. God never gives you more than you can handle,” he said. “We said, ‘We can’t split up these kids. If this is what needs to happen we’ll adopt them. Everything else we’ll adjust when it comes.’”
It was during this time Marrs also discovered she was pregnant, all while trying to complete 12 races in 12 months, about which she wrote in her book.
“I walked into the adoption office to sign the papers to adopt when I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant,” Marrs said. “I didn’t have a panic moment until we got to the car and I realized within about ten years from that day we would have seven teenagers in our house.”
They became advocates for adoption and foster care and try to encourage all families to consider fostering one of the 19,000 children currently in the system in Arizona.
“We had to build beds. We had to get a bigger van,” Marrs said. “People look at us and say, ‘If they can do that, we can at least consider adopting one child.’ That’s what we’re hoping to do is just inspire people to just give more help.”
Marrs said her house is held together by faith and love. Despite homeschooling, working and raising seven children, Marrs said their hardest time is over.
“Our faith is primary in our household,” Marrs said. “Everything we do is based on our trust in God because we believe there’s no way we could have survived what we went through in 2014 without his guidance.”
When Rick comes home from his job in management, he finishes the kids’ schooling for the day while Marrs begins contacting clients and sending out cards for her business, SendOutCards.
Marrs said she works with other business owners using the app to send out thank you cards, gifts and other promotional products.
“At its core, it’s a greeting card and gifting company, but it’s so much more than that,” Marrs said.
Marrs said her company helps build, rebuild and maintain relationships on behalf of companies and individuals who can tangibly show their gratitude.
Marrs is taking a break from work to run in the marathon on Monday and Rick will meet her in Boston with their children. The family will be there cheering her on as she fulfills a long-time dream.
“I’m a big goal person,” Marrs said, remembering the vision card she created in 2012. “There’s a picture I pulled off the internet with the Boston medal on it. I wasn’t even courageous enough to write down the words ‘Boston Marathon’ but I did stick a picture in this card.
“Now it’s a dream come true.”