This is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates
In her final year at Harvard Medical School (HMS), Kirstin Woody Scott was looking forward to running her 10th consecutive Boston Marathon.
“When it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I understood the necessity, but still was disappointed,” Scott said.
She had hoped to reunite with Kyle Robidoux, a visually impaired athlete she had previously guided along the marathon route and along other courses.
But the coronavirus proved to be no deterrent for the pair.
On April 20, the Boston marathon’s original date, Scott was nearly 800 miles from Massachusetts when she and Robidoux connected via cellphone. The two did a “virtual” run of 26.2 miles, with Robidoux circling a familiar track in Boston without a sighted guide, and Scott simultaneously running a track in Ann Arbor, Mich., where she soon will begin her emergency medicine residency at the University of Michigan Hospitals.
“We finished within five minutes of each other, celebrating by connecting in a FaceTime call,” said Scott.
To commemorate their achievement, Scott established an online fundraising page for Team With A Vision, which had brought Scott and Robidoux together in the first place. The group supports the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, a statewide network of services for low-vision individuals.
Scott is in an elite class of athletes called ultra-runners. She has been a top finisher in multiple 50- and 100-mile ultramarathons and has run several “Double Bostons,” in which runners complete the course twice on marathon day, totaling 52.4 miles.
Beginning early in the morning, the first feat is running the route in reverse, from Boston to the starting line in Hopkinton, then joining the throng of qualifying runners who head back to the Boston finish line.
Long-distance running isn’t Scott’s only outdoor passion. Raised in Bakersfield, Calif., near her family’s cattle ranch at the foothills of the Greenhorn Mountains, she grew up embracing the wilderness. She has summited Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, as well as Mount Washington in New Hampshire, and several peaks in Washington state including Mount Rainier. But last summer, a climb in the northern Cascades with her brother, an experienced mountaineer, nearly ended in tragedy. While ascending Mount Stuart, a traction device on Scott’s footwear gave way and she fell hundreds of feet down a steep snowfield.
Fortunately, her fall was broken by a rock pile.
“When I finally stopped falling, it was a miracle I was still breathing,” she said.
When her brother was able to reach her, he found her with an ankle badly broken. Lying precariously at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet, there was little chance of crawling to safety. Using their GPS tracker, they activated search-and-rescue officials in Seattle.