Stray cat on the streets, like the one rescued by Chicago marathon runner.
(Photo Credit: Sam Miles / Getty Images)

Chicago Marathon Runner Sacrifices Personal Best to Rescue Stray Cat

As Sarah Bohan raced through the streets of Chicago during the marathon on Sunday, she couldn’t help but shift her focus from speed to a stray cat meowing along the sidelines.

The 26-year-old marathoner was making her way towards mile 21 when she spotted a curious little sight. There, on the pavement, was a tiny, “white fluffy thing,” as described to PEOPLE by the Boston Children’s Hospital social worker.

Sarah recalled the moment vividly, saying, “It had to have been one pound; the fur was matted, it had marks underneath its eyes from not being well kept, and it was just crying.” To her surprise, no one else seemed to notice the distressed feline, prompting her to turn back and scoop up the tiny cat.

Race reimagined: Rescuing a cat amidst a marathon

Although she was well on her way to achieving a personal record pace, Bohan didn’t hesitate to slow down and rescue the stranded kitten.

Abandoning her time and any thought of winning, Bohan scooped up the creature and took the fur ball under her wing. Meanwhile, Gia Nigro, another runner, saw what Bohan had done and decided to join in on the rescue mission. Together, they walked the race, making sure to keep the precious bundle safe and secure.

Bohan emphasized, “I wasn’t going to run with this cat; that would injure it.” As the two women continued walking the race, they approached spectators, inquiring if anyone would be willing to take care of the kitten. After a mile of speaking with people along the sidelines, two cat-loving individuals stepped forward and declared, “We will take this cat.”

“I must have asked them about five times to confirm that they would care and love this cat,” Bohan laughed as she recollected the interaction. “I was committed to making sure that this little baby would be okay, and I wasn’t just going to give it to anyone.”

A memorable marathon finish

After ensuring the cat’s safety, Bohan and Nigro continued the marathon race together, even pausing to assist a fallen woman. The trio of runners crossed the finish line as a team. Although Bohan didn’t break her personal record, she completed the race in 3:31:35, approximately 19 minutes slower than her best time.

Coincidentally, Sarah Bohan was one of 482 participants running on behalf of “Paws Chicago,” a no-kill shelter in the Midwest. Due to being unable to participate via the lottery the previous year and being a novice marathon runner, she decided to join the shelter’s team for this year’s run. Despite the seemingly perfect connection, Bohan insists that finding the kitten was purely a matter of chance.

“I recognize the irony of this entire story, where there are people who are probably skeptical, ‘She’s running for Team Paws, and now she’s saving a cat,’” confesses the mother of two felines.

Bohan’s priorities were in order

In the interview, Bohan goes on to admit that if no spectators had stepped in to help the kitten, she would have left the race immediately to attend to the animal’s needs.

Bohan elaborates, saying, “I would have dropped out of the race and brought it to a vet because it’s what you do when you have a pet in need. The obligation of human compassion just kind of kicks in instinctually.” She adds, “I didn’t care about the race at that point.”

It was clear the runner had her priorities in order. Bohan explains, “I was just like, ‘This cat needs someone, and I might have to be that person. And I’m okay with that because that’s my responsibility.’”

Sarah Bohan’s story serves as a reminder that sometimes, in the most unexpected moments, we find our truest calling in acts of compassion. As such, this marathon runner is arguably the real winner in an altogether different race. Bohan has redefined what it means to be a champion, and it’s good that people took notice.

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