Leading the Way

Boston becomes a beacon of hope for Shelby Kaplan

At the Boston Marathon, Shelby Kaplan will realize a dream she’s been chasing for more than four years. And the accomplishment is that much sweeter because just two months after qualifying for the event, she was struck by a car and seriously injured.

It happened during a July 4 trip to the beach to walk two of her four dogs, Lady and Lou. Crossing the street to meet her boyfriend during her 6-mile run, a car struck her on her left side and ran over both of her legs.

High-energy and a self-proclaimed “pet hoarder,” running wasn’t always one of Shelby’s hobbies. But when she joined Unum in August 2010, a dream of being healthier and a post on the company’s intranet about the Unum Track Team launched her into a lifestyle of “hitting the pavement.”

“I really wanted to be healthier, and the team helped me feel empowered and accountable because I wanted to be the best teammate possible,” Shelby explained. “There I got the ‘itch’ to make running part of my life, and now it’s something people know me for.”

Training with the team and often running around the company’s Portland campus, she continued to develop a love for the sport, and completed her first marathon in October 2012. Just after crossing the finish line, a new goal sparked: run the Boston Marathon. She knew it wouldn’t be easy, especially after comparing her time to qualifying standards for the historic event. Still, Boston became a beacon, an ever-present goal that pushed her to train harder, run faster and persist even when it was difficult.

Almost three years and seven marathons later, she qualified in May 2016, just two months before the accident that left her unable to walk, much less run.

“Miraculously, only my left leg was seriously injured, with a fractured ankle and an MCL sprain,” Shelby explained, “but I couldn’t run for awhile or even be in the office for work, and all I wanted was to be back to normal.”

After the accident, Shelby considered her Short Term Disability and Family Medical Leave options. Her manager, Melinda Gregory, encouraged her to do whatever would best fit her needs, and helped her navigate the stressful time. So, when she offered working from home and flexible hours as solutions to help with appointments and therapy, Shelby jumped at the opportunity.

“I was on a physical and emotional roller coaster already, and being able to work helped keep me grounded,” she said. “Unum became this very stable thing for me in a time of great instability. My colleagues’ support and just being able to contribute helped me feel normal when things were abnormal.”

Shelby was back in the office about six weeks later, and resumed her training. She’s been working hard ever since and, despite temporary setbacks, will run the race on April 17.

She attributes the speedy progress and support to her friends and family, but also to Unum and the culture she said helped her get the help she needed.

“Being part of a business that acknowledges the struggles of being sick or injured, it’s like my team just ‘got it’,” she said. “I always tell people in my running circles about the company and my team who helped get me back on track.”