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Frankie Mancini / Gavel Media

Beyond Mile 21: Home is Where the Heart is for Erin Hamlin

A Reading, Massachusetts native, sophomore Erin Hamlin knows just how important the Boston Marathon is to not just the surrounding community, but to runners everywhere.

“It’s just such a big deal around the world, and obviously in Massachusetts too, everything just shuts down for Patriot’s Day. I’m just really excited to take the day in, be part of the experience, and run my first marathon.”

For most of her life, Hamlin did not consider herself a runner. In fact, her first passion was dancing, something that she had been involved in from kindergarten through high school.

“Running isn’t really a family thing. My dad and I did some 5Ks together when I was younger, but it was honestly a painful experience as someone who didn’t really enjoy running.”

Everything changed for Hamlin in high school, however, as she decided to join the cross-country and track teams as an activity that she could share with her friends. What began as a hobby soon became a genuine passion.

“I just really enjoy distance running now. I feel like that’s an unpopular opinion, but it’s just nice to be able to go out for a run and clear your head.”

Her experiences in high school also connected Hamlin to Cradles to Crayons, the charity that she will be running the marathon for. The charity was founded in 2002 by Lynn Margheiro with the vision of putting unused or outgrown clothes to use in an effort to give assistance to those who could not afford to buy new clothes. Since its inception in Boston, it has expanded operations to the Philadelphia and Chicago metro areas.

Hamlin connected with the charity through her mother, who brought the family to volunteer one weekend. A worker approached her and encouraged her to join a teen leadership program that the organization offered, and ever since applying, she has been heavily involved in fundraising and volunteer efforts.

“Cradles to Crayons basically provides essential items to children aged zero through twelve living in low-income situations in the Boston area,” she explained.

These items include winter coats, clothes, boots, books, art supplies, and the like. The charity itself depends on both item donations and monetary donations, so the $10,000 that Hamlin raised will go a long way towards providing low-income families with essentials that they may not be able to afford. Boston College’s proximity to her hometown has given her the unique opportunity to maintain a relationship with Cradles to Crayons, which in turn allowed her to run the marathon to benefit the charity that she is so fond of.

“I always envisioned that I would run for their team once I was out of college,” she explained. It is clear that she has exceeded even her own expectations, participating in the race far ahead of  schedule.

Community service has been an essential part of her experience at Boston College just as much as it was at home. She has traveled to Hollywood, South Carolina and Elizabethtown, Kentucky with the Appalachia Volunteer Corps, opting to spend her spring break serving the underprivileged rather than escaping to a tropical destination or relaxing at home for a week. For those who know her, it is no surprise that she would be willing to embrace such a massive undertaking for a cause that she is passionate about.

Hamlin began raising money to run the Boston Marathon in November and held fundraisers at Chipotle and White Mountain Creamery as part of her fundraising efforts in addition to asking for donation from friends and family. She hit her fundraising goal in the beginning of March, and eventually wound up comfortably exceeding her $10,000 goal.

“Social media was helpful in the beginning just to get the first $2,000, and then I just started writing letters to family and friends asking for donations along with the fundraisers and companies matching funds from some of my donors. It felt awkward asking for donations from people I knew, but I just had to remind myself to put that aside for the sake of the cause.”

When discussing her training, Hamlin referenced her experience as a health coach as something that helped her to stay focused when things would become difficult.

“I think it really helped just when it came to staying motivated. I haven’t really had a lot of free time throughout all of this, and it’s tough to go out and run when it’s cold, bleak, and dark outside, but training isn’t the kind of thing that you can make up for along the way. I did a fifteen-mile run in the snow which was particularly difficult, but I just knew how important it was to my training.”

Her training routine is twenty weeks long, with a long run every Saturday of increasing distances (twenty miles being the longest), three to seven mile runs most other days, hill workouts, and various other forms of exercise such as pilates and spin classes. Her Saturday long runs are often with a large group of other marathon runners, allowing her to gain some insight into the community of runners.

“There’s really good energy on the long runs. Everyone’s building each other up and motivating each other so it’s great to be a part of. It’s just a really welcoming community where everyone really cares for each other.”

When it comes to race day, she knows that it will be a unique experience, and is glad that she will receive support from not only her friends at Boston College, but also her family and friends who live nearby.

“I’m really lucky to be from the area and have my family and my friends from high school be able to come and support me throughout the race. My parents are going to be watching from the start and finish lines, and passing Mile 21 will hopefully give me some extra motivation; just taking in the energy and seeing my friends cheer me on will be a special experience.”

She explained that training has had its up and downs, but her progress has been empowering and has given her the confidence to embrace the challenges associated with running the Boston Marathon. On race day, she plans to listen to a healthy dose of Mumford and Sons, but also plans to unplug at Mile 21 and near the finish line on Boylston Street.

“Music has really helped me through training, and it’s a good distraction from any aches or pains, but I probably won’t be listening to music around BC and near the finish line, just to soak it all in.”

Once the marathon is over, Hamlin is looking forward to reclaiming her free time and being able to sleep in on Saturday mornings. However, as a nursing student, her schedule will remain quite hectic even after the marathon, and her training, are over.

“I have my clinical the next morning at Mass General, which I can’t really skip, so I’ll still have to be up early, but it’s rewarding to interact with patients and provide hands-on care.”

As someone who has always been interested in pursuing a profession in the medical field, Hamlin has enjoyed her experience in the nursing school and sees clinicals as a great real-world introduction to the field.

She plans on remaining active after the marathon, and plans to share her training routine with her roommate Emily, who is running the New York City Marathon in November. She shared that she may even participate in the training program again, and has considered running the New York City Marathon as well. But that decision is still far away.

For now, she is embracing her first marathon experience in Boston, and is eager to feel the love and support of her friends and family in attendance, all while doing her part to make a difference in the Boston community through the fundraising and publicity that she has provided for her charity.

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Born and raised in New Jersey, but I’m a Wisconsinite at heart. I talk way too much about the Green Bay Packers, Bruce Springsteen, and It’s Always Sunny.