Friends help Pawtucket zookeeper complete race of a lifetime

Friends help Pawtucket zookeeper complete race of a lifetime

Mallory Billings-Litke, on her bicycle in the foreground, snaps a moving selfie with Laura Isaacs, who was running her first marathon.

PAWTUCKET – Last Saturday was an experience Laura Isaacs won’t soon forget, one she still can’t believe her friends went to such lengths to help her have.

“I still can’t believe my friends did this for me,” said Isaacs on Sunday, a day after completing her first marathon route to friends, neighbors and complete strangers cheering her on every step of the way. “I’m still flabbergasted.”

Needing a little motivation from others when it comes to running long distances, city resident Isaacs had slowly ramped up her endurance, first doing a 5K before friends and neighbors Mallory and Wendy Billings-Litke pushed her to do a half-marathon. Mallory laughs, remembering her saying that’s as far as she would go, but then succumbing to their encouragement and signing up for the beautiful Sugarloaf Marathon course in Maine.

Knowing how much time she’d put into training, her friends told her to keep running and they’d plan a course just for her around here.

Isaacs, a Pawtucket resident since 2010, is a zookeeper at Roger Williams Park Zoo. Her race, complete with T-shirts for those cheering on its one participant, was called the Serengeti Solo.


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Billings-Litke marked the course in chalk last Saturday morning so her friend wouldn’t have to worry that people would ask her what it was for. They were ready, then, to cheer on Isaacs when she came by, helping to keep her motivated on a day that was warmer than most runners like.

The 26.2-mile course was made up of four of the same loops through Pawtucket and Providence, starting and ending near the condos where Isaacs and the Billings-Litkes live on Geneva Street. By looping the race, said Billings-Litke, Isaacs would have access to a bathroom if needed. Billings-Litke ran two loops with Isaacs, and another friend ran the other two loops.

Isaacs is a really good friend and has been “super dedicated and helpful” when they’ve done races, said Billings-Litke. She’s just “a really thoughtful person” who deserved to have something nice done for her.

Isaacs ran this first marathon in five hours, 27 minutes and 40 seconds.

“I think I did OK,” she told The Breeze.

Neighbor Meghan Kallman, the area’s City Council member, said the entire day was a heartwarming experience of seeing neighbors come out for each other, and was probably a better version of a marathon than the original would have been.

Isaacs said her temple friends and knitting buddies, along with members of the Rhode Island Road Runners club she belongs to, all turned out to cheer her on, all keeping socially distant throughout the race route. She remembers loud cheers as she ran past the local farmers market.

Billings-Litke said it was “really cool” to be a part of the entire experience for Isaacs, as well as to award her the first place overall female finisher award. After the race, the organizers were able to use FaceTime to connect Isaacs with friends in New Jersey and Ireland who had been unable to be there for her.

This is another example of people rising above the ongoing coronavirus challenge, Billings-Litke said, turning sadness into a positive.

“Everybody stepped up to help support someone’s dream,” she said.