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Taking Back the Marathon: For Charity

The Boston Marathon has traditionally been a day of partying for local college students, with little focus on the running of the race itself. However, the tragic bombings that occurred on April 15, 2013 have inspired many to run in 2014. Taking Back the Marathon features Boston College students who are planning to run in the 2014 Boston Marathon, along with the stories behind their motivation to make this year’s race one to remember.

Patricia Garibaldi, LSOE '16

April 15, 2013 will forever be a day that I remember with absolute clarity.

It was the day of the 117th Boston Marathon, my very first marathon. From waking up in my dorm room, to taking the bus to Hopkinton and feeling pre-race butterflies, to the infinite feeling I had running past BC at mile 21, to the heartbreak, fear, and anger I felt when I was stopped at mile 25.8—I remember it all in vivid detail as if it were yesterday.

I ran the Boston Marathon last year for the Campus School and spent six days a week for five months training to run Boston and cross a big item off my bucket list.  For me, running has always been therapeutic, it has allowed my “happy place” to be wherever I am while in motion.

Training for the marathon last year allowed that happy place to be Boston and helped me to explore a city brand new to me.  I loved it and every time I completed a new distance on my training schedule, I got more and more excited for Marathon Monday.  When April 15 finally came I couldn’t have been more excited (or anxious) and as I lined up at the start line with thousands of other slightly-insane people about to run 26.2 miles, I felt like I had found a place that I belong.  This feeling would extend all 25.8 miles I got to run and for several weeks afterward.

When I was stopped a quarter of a mile from the finish line due to the tragic events occurring, I witnessed and felt a range of events and emotions I never could have anticipated when I woke up that morning.  I was scared for my family’s safety as they were supposed to be meeting me at the finish line, I was confused as I was given limited information about what was occurring, I was frustrated from being stopped so excruciatingly close to my goal, and I was deeply saddened by the loss of life I anticipated. As this flood of emotions overcame me, I witnessed people coming out from their apartments with sweatshirts, blankets, food, water, and phones to give to me and the other runners.

Christie Merino / Gavel Media

Christie Merino / Gavel Media

While we were dealing with ramifications of the evil in mankind, I was witnessing the goodness in these strangers’ acts of genuine and selfless kindness.  It was in those moments and in the moments to follow when I was greeted with hugs and tears upon returning to campus and was part of the outreach to the victims that I realized that Boston and BC are a place I belong.

Prior to the marathon I was planning on transferring and on Marathon Monday I had gotten accepted to the university I wanted to transfer to, but after the horrible events and miraculous reaction on April 15, I felt a connection to this place that made it impossible for me to leave.

This feeling has stayed with me ever since and has encouraged me to once again run the Boston Marathon this year.  I am honored and humbled to be running this year’s marathon for the Melanoma Foundation of New England.  Running and fundraising for MFNE has enabled me to transform what was initially a selfish goal to finally finish the race into something very different.  This year a few days before Christmas, I lost a dear friend and neighbor to melanoma.

He was a one of those magnetic people that you know is special immediately upon meeting and I was know with certainty that I am a better person for having known him and his family the last 19 years.  He managed to find me every time I was running around my hometown, would stop his car, open the windows yelling words of excited encouragement and make what was previously a mundane run feel like the homestretch down Boylston Street.  He had this effect on everyone he knew, he had a way of making people feel truly special.  After he passed away, I knew that I had to run in his memory in hopes of giving a little back to a person who gave so very much of himself to others.

Now, each morning when I lace up my sneakers and go find my happy place, I am doing it for so much more than myself.

As I run up Heartbreak Hill I feel my friend giving me a little push, I hear all of the generous people who have donated to my fundraiser whisper words of encouragement, and I feel the strength that Boston has shown me.

This motivation has been fueled each Saturday morning when I run with my training group, the Marathon Coalition.  We’re all running for charities very close to our hearts and their stories and reasons for running have become intertwined with my own and inspired me as we’ve embarked upon our journey toward this year’s finish line.

The Marathon Coalition’s slogan is “Empowering others through running and giving hope and opportunity to those who have gone far too long without both.” This captures what the marathon has meant to me.  It shows the wonderful things the Melanoma Foundation can do with the generous donations people are making on my behalf to prevent other special people from being taken from us. It also encompasses how the Boston Marathon has empowered me—it has given me a second home, a means of turning tragedy into hope, and an opportunity to become a part of a group and a movement much greater than myself.

I cannot wait for this year’s marathon on April 21 so Boston can show the world its strength and get its redemption.  I’ll see you on Boylston Street; I’ll be the one with a smile on my face, tears of joy in my eyes, and a guardian angel giving me a gentle push across the finish line that has been haunting me since last April.

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