BC student who aided marathoner lauded as ‘Miracle Joe’

CHESTNUT HILL — Hopkinton native Kim Aarden may not have believed in angels when she set out to run the Boston Marathon on April 17. However, by the time the local hairdresser and mother of two finished the race 5 hours and 19 minutes later, she was sure she had been rescued by one — in fact, he even ran part of the race with her.

Aarden’s angel is a Boston College freshman named Joseph Turnage, of Dallas, Texas who saw the Hopkinton resident struggling as she made her way past the crowds at Boston College on Marathon Monday.

“I was crying but he kept encouraging me, kept cheering me on,” said Aarend.

Soon, Turnage, jumped into the race and joined her.

“I really had no excuse not to,” said Turnage, 19, a graduate of Dallas Jesuit High School who was a cross-country and middle distance runner on his high school track team.

They ran the final five miles of the race together — Aarden in her running gear, Turnage in his jeans and tennis shoes. As they pounded the pavement together the pair became fast friends.

“We talked a lot as I tried to encourage her to finish,” said Turnage. “She was struggling a little bit.”

Along the way, Turnage also convinced onlookers to cheer for his new friend.

“He got people to chant my name; it was amazing,” recalled Aarden.

With 400 yards to go at the end of the race, however, the duo somehow got separated. Aarden went on to finish the marathon and Turnage took a taxi cab back to Boston College.

The next day Aarden made several phone calls to Boston College seeking the man she called “Miracle Joe.”

“I didn’t know his last name or his phone number, but I was determined to find him and thank him,” said Aarden, whose call to the BC Office of Public Affairs resulted in a message posted on the BC Web site “BCInfo” as well as an article in the student newspaper The Heights.

The publicity paid off as Turnage, upon reading the postings, called Aarden on April 24.

It seems for Turnage, jumping in to lend a hand has become the hallmark of his young college career. Since arriving at BC last fall, the campus ministry student worker has taken part in a number of community service activities, including the Appalachia Volunteers program in which he volunteered to forgo spring break to travel to Virginia to aid the poor. This summer, he will travel to Biloxi, Miss. to do hurricane relief through the BC Appalachia Summer Program.

“I can’t say I’ve done anything like jumping into a marathon before,” said Turnage, who knew only a little about the marathon before coming to Boston. “But I guess it paid off. A cornerstone of Jesuit education is to use our God-given talents in the service of others. That is all that I was trying to do.”