The idea of failure.
Like most runners, that’s what motivates Alaina Bodine to keep going. That’s what motivates her to make it across that finish line each time she races, to continue a long training run with her teammates when her body’s telling her to stop.
“If I quit, it’s like putting me a step back where I am and proving to anyone that’s doubted me that I can’t do it,” she said.
As the throng of runners and teams compete at the Meet of Champions this weekend at Fort Devens, some will experience a time when they want to quit; where the pain is too much and it’s hard to move on. Some will need more than encouraging words from their coaches and teammates on the course. They’ll need some inspiration from somewhere else, perhaps even someone else.
Someone like Bodine, the happy-go-lucky teen from Brookline High.
The 15-year-old sophomore will be with her teammates on Saturday. She won’t be there as a varsity member, but a spectator on the course as the Warriors take on the competition in the boys’ and girls’ races, both with expectations of grandeur at this weekend’s meet.
Want to talk about overcoming the odds, and ditching the notion that something can’t be done because of your limitations, look no further than Bodine.
She’s been doing all of that ever since her mom, Lisa, adopted her from China at the very young age of 15 months. Bodine was born with fibula hemimelia in her left leg. In medical terms, it’s a congenital lower limb anomaly characterized by a partial or complete absence of the fibular and includes a spectrum ranging from mild fibular hypoplasia to complete fibular aplasia.
“I was born without a fibula and ACL,” she said. “My left foot, I couldn’t do anything with it, so we amputated (my leg) when I was about two (years old) and replaced it with an artificial one. I’ve grown up with it.”
Because of her young age, Bodine doesn’t remember anything about the amputation. “I have pictures of it,” she said.
But the Brookline tenth-grader does remember that from the time she was fitted with a prosthetic, it has never limited her to what she could do, including participating in a variety of sports since the second grade.
“I think I have pretty much played most of the sports that anyone has,” she said.”I played soccer since I was young. I played basketball. I played lacrosse. There are a lot of sports that I have done. I have just grown up with an active lifestyle.”
Her mom, who adopted her daughter knowing of her condition and the possible prognosis ahead – “I chose to do special needs adoption. I knew right away it was possible.” – never doubted that her daughter couldn’t participate in activities like most of her peers.
“I raised her to not be limited to what she can do,” she said. “She was always active from the time I adopted her. From the first night, she was climbing on top of dressers and headboards. She’s always been a very active kid. It didn’t surprise me that she would take to sports.”
As for running, or more specifically, competing, that essentially began in the ninth grade at Brookline during the fall of 2022.
“I used to run a lot with my sister and stuff when I was really, really young,” Bodine said. “I don’t even remember the first time I ran. It was just something that I always naturally just did. I was never told I wasn’t allowed to do anything and had no restrictions. I just kind of did it.”
“I ran in middle school but never really trained for it,” she continued. “My school just put me in and said are you running? It was never a planned thing, My freshmen year was my first committed running season.”
Head coach Mike DeYoung talked about the first time he met Bodine. He admitted he didn’t realize she had a prosthetic until about a half hour after they first met.
“I had to do a double take,” DeYoung recalled. “I’m like, ‘Is that a prosthetic? I never said anything and never asked about it. I was like, ‘I’m sure we’ll talk about it.’ But it just never came up. The whole season went by and we never really discussed it.”
Bodine remembered her first race as a freshman. In a meet against Weymouth in mid September, she placed 17th overall in the junior varsity race, covering the four-kilometer distance in 17 minutes, 55 seconds.
“I walked like half of that one,” she said.
Bodine improved on that time just a month later with a PR of 15:10.6 from the Bob Glennon Twilight Invitational. She also had a 3K best of 13:54.3, which she did at the Frank Mooney Coaches Invitational at the end of the season.
“In the beginning of the season last year, I just never expected to be where I would be today, so I never really tried in the beginning,” she said. “It was just a thing to do in high school. I kind of wanted to quit. I wasn’t prepared for the physical endurance you have to have when you run cross country.”
Where is she today. Let’s just say it’s no longer, “just a thing to do in high school,” for Bodine, who is constantly proving to her coach and herself that she has a niche in this sport, and that the future looks promising. This season, she clocked her all-time best for 5K with a time of 23:23 at the Twilight Invitational. She currently ranks 13th on a talented Brookline squad that totals more than 50 runners.
Bodine achieved several milestones this fall, including finishing her longest training run, an eight-miler on Columbus Day. Her previous high was five miles, which she did at the Berkshire Running Camp during the summer.
“That was the start of trying to run longer distances,” she said. “Me and my friend were like how long can we go? That’s the first time I ran a long distance. I was really proud of myself.”
When asked about her thoughts before the eight-miler, Bodine quipped, “I was thinking, why did I do this sport? I was also thinking, if I can do this I could keep pushing myself. By the end of the season, my friend and I want to run 10 miles.”
DeYoung says there’s a lot of things that work in Bodine’s favor, and the reason for her success, despite what most would consider a limitation.
“She is super tough and competitive in races,” he said. “She is really resilient and has an excellent sense of humor. She never misses practice. She’s there every day.”
While he’s impressed with what Bodine has done so far in her young running career, DeYoung knows the sky’s the limit for his determined and inspirational runner.
And he certainly doesn’t treat her any differently than the rest of his team, always encouraging her to give it her best effort each time she races.
“We don’t even think, ‘Oh, that’s great.’ We’re like, ‘You should be going faster.’ I think there is plenty of room to improve,” he said. “I could see her running under 22 minutes as a junior and under 21 minutes as a senior, just like everybody else. She’s ahead of a lot of them from all the kids that came in as freshman.”
“I am so proud of her,” added her mom. “I think it’s amazing that she’s able to participate. She doesn’t give it a second thought that there is anything different going on.”
Bodine appreciates the support she’s received from not only her coach and mom, but the members of her team.
“They are just amazing,” she said. “They are super supportive of everything. Even when you have your worst race, they tell you that you did great. It’s like a second family. There’s just so many nice people. You turn the corner, and there’s always people that support you.”
As to be expected, Bodine is among a small percentage of amputees that are competitive athletes. She’s hoping that what she has done, and will continue to do, will inspire others to do the same whether it’s running or any other sport.
“I definitely think, and really hope, that they go out and try something,” she said. “If (running) is not their thing, they can try another thing.”
For Bodine, the benefits of running are endless.
“With running, everything just makes sense to me at the moment,” she said. “It’s kind of like an escape from life in a way. When I run, I don’t think about homework I have to finish or the test I have coming up. Everything just seems more calm…Running is this thing that makes me happy and makes me want to do it more. It’s kind of like a drug for me.”