Katie Kellner was running the path around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir on Monday morning before she threw off her shoes and swam into the middle of the pond.
In the middle of her run, Kellner saw a dog jump into the water chasing a swan. Its walker—a man who had been walking two other dogs and appeared to be in his 30s, according to Kellner—scaled down the embankment and dove in after him. Once he reached the dog, however, he struggled to stay afloat. He started screaming for help, which was when Kellner quickly pulled off her shoes, climbed down to the shore, and swam out to them.
“All I could think about was just getting to that guy,” Kellner said. “It was such a singular, in-the-moment focus, like, I was not thinking about consequences.”
Formerly EMT certified, Kellner’s instinct drove her to act quickly. When she first reached the pair, however, she struggled under the weight of the two of them.
“I just immediately sunk. And it was kind of this moment of panic where I was like I might drown with them,” she said.
Once she reached them, she directed the dog toward the shore and hoisted the man on her back. They made it to the shore, where Kellner and the dogwalker remained until the paramedics arrived on the scene. The man was taken to the hospital and later released, the dog’s owner told Kellner.
BCPD officers Patrick Rose and John Buckley were first to report to the scene. Officer Jeff Postell arrived shortly after with Captain Kevin Buckley. Rose, Buckley, and Postell descended the embankment to check the situation. The man was alert and conscious. Once the fire department arrived, the man was brought up to the path and treated by EMTs.
It is unclear whether or not the dogwalker knew how to swim, Postell said.
Postell, having worked in law enforcement for two decades, has seen a handful of incidents occur at the Reservoir and similar locations, and many that have resulted in dire outcomes.
“The credit goes to her. She was the one that jumped in,” he said. “She certainly saved a life that day.”
The New Jersey native isn’t a swimmer, but she has been an avid runner since the seventh grade. Kellner continued running in high school and went on to run both track and cross country at Cornell University, where she was an Ivy League Champion in both sports.
In 2016, she moved to Boston, where she has continued running as an elite runner for the Boston Athletic Association, during which time she qualified for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials with a 2:41:06 marathon time. Kellner has been training for the Olympic Marathon Trials; started her own virtual coaching program, Forward Focus Running, in January; and recently earned her masters in public health from Boston University.
Just days after the incident, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) reached out to Kellner, offering her a Compassionate Action Award for her consideration for the dog in that moment.
Kellner has been contacted by many people, friends and strangers, who have expressed their gratitude and appreciation for her heroic actions, she said.
Kellner runs every day, but not every run takes her around the Res—luckily, Monday was one of those days. Even after the catastrophe that nearly was, she finished her workout and ran another five miles.
Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor