Gwen Frederickson woke the morning of the Boston Marathon smiling. After training 40 miles a week outside in the bitter chill and sleet of an Ann Arbor, Michigan winter, she knew she was ready.
Riding on the bus to the starting gate, though, she began to squint, to feel a tightening in her head—the beginning of a migraine.
All alone in a sea of runners and half-a-million spectators, she wasn’t even able to find an Advil to take the edge off the drumbeat of intensifying pain.
The starting gun fired. And Gwen was struck by the noise as she began to run. Well-wishers cheering. Rock music roaring from speakers.
She kept her pace slow as she schemed: I won’t look at my watch. If I take little sips of water, just little ones, I can hold off dehydration without throwing up.
Her husband, Gabe, found her at mile 21 and asked how she was doing. If I say it out loud, I might give up, she thought. So she shook her head and kept running. She started to cry then, and it made the migraine worse. Don’t cry. You’re at Boston. Must finish.
At 3 hours, 38 minutes and 39 seconds, Gwen crossed the finish line—with her personal best time.
I’ve seen Gwen’s determination before. As a young mom in 2004, she started her own freelance graphic design business, scared out of her mind.
A career counselor had told her bluntly: I don’t see you working for yourself. You are not a salesperson. You are not cutthroat or competitive. Gwen knew this was true.
But when a caregiver saw her son Luke crawl before she did, Gwen left behind the long hours of her steady corporate position and took the leap. She had one committed client, an opera company. I contacted her the next day, and she had her second job, designing this magazine. Six years later, her business continues to thrive.
Today, one-third of all new U.S. small businesses are one-person operations. Experts cite contributing factors, such as lower technology costs and the rise of dual-career families. And many speculate that it will be the grit of consultants like Gwen and startup entrepreneurs, such as those we introduce in our feature article, that propel our country forward to recovery. Race on.
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