Frankie Mancini / Gavel Media

Beyond Mile 21: From Northern Michigan to Boston, Nick Wilson Runs with a Purpose

Nick Wilson has come a long way from home to be at Boston College.

The Keweenaw County, Michigan native and current BC sophomore is ready to run his first marathon this year in Boston. Keweenaw, for those who might not be familiar with the upper reaches of the Midwest, is located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — near Lake Superior and across the water from Canada. To get there from Boston, you have to fly through Chicago and take a connecting flight to the Upper Peninsula. It’s such a remote area that the flight in from Chicago often gets cancelled.

“If you’re trying to do it in the winter, you have maybe 50/50 odds of actually making the flight,” says Nick.

Nick says that he came all the way out to Boston for school because he wanted to experience a different part of the country. Though he loves the Midwest, he’s enjoyed getting to live on the East Coast as well.

“Boston is very, very different,” Nick says about the transition from his hometown. “It’s been good, but it was definitely an adjustment to get used to the change.”

Though he admits that being in Boston is a vastly different experience than the life he had back home, Nick’s ties to his hometown have influenced a lot of what he has chosen to do while here at college. For his marathon fundraising, Nick has chosen to raise money for the American Red Cross, which provides disaster relief aid. Nick chose the Red Cross because of the way the organization helped his own hometown in a time of need just last year.

“There was a big rainstorm and flood. It did a lot of damage — $100 Million of infrastructure damage. That’s when I first started talking to my family, getting the idea that maybe we could do something to try to give back to the community in some way. Red Cross came to the aid of my community after that disaster.”

As far as fundraising goes, Nick has been doing a whole lot of letter writing, reaching out to extended family and friends. His friends at BC and members of his hometown community have shown a lot of support for Nick’s cause.

“A lot of people in my community back home have shown a lot of support.”

Around campus, Nick has made the most of his time here at BC. In addition to the massive time commitment of training for a marathon, Nick has done research in the Political Science department and worked as the News Editor of The Gavel. He’s passionate about the environment, and majors in Environmental Science with a concentration in Political Science. After graduation, he hopes to go into journalism and write about his passion: environmental policy issues.

Though Boston is going to be his first marathon, Nick has always been a runner. He ran track and cross country in high school, but focused on mid-range distances rather than long distances during that time. Before the marathon, the longest race he’s completed has been fifteen miles. He’s always wanted to train for a marathon, and running in Boston seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up.

“It’s kind of always been a bucket list thing for me,” Nick says. “Seeing the Boston Marathon last year, the runners passing the campus and everything, kind of made me get the bug to want to do it myself.”

For his training, Nick has been working with his high school running coach. He started on a training program very early on, going through serious marathon preparation all throughout the fall semester and into the spring. His training process has been pretty smooth, save for a few minor injuries. He had a small foot injury a couple months ago that slowed him down for a few weeks, but he’s still had no trouble building up his distance to a marathon-worthy level. His longest training run before the marathon was a full 23 miles.

The training regimen includes running usually five to six days a week, with the traditional long runs on Saturdays. Nick says that he often completes those long runs on his own.

“I’ve done a lot of them on my own. In the fall, I’d run along the Charles River, which was nice. Lately, I’ve done a few with other people from Team Red Cross.” says Nick.

He’s even done some long runs along the actual marathon course, getting used to what he’ll be going through on the actual race day. For Nick, the toughest part of the training process has been the classic difficulties a runner faces during long distance runs—the consistent physical challenges, running on bad weather days, and hitting the infamous “wall” during an especially difficult run. Despite the challenges of going through such a demanding program, it’s all been worth it for Nick.

“It’s been amazing for me to see how much support I’ve had from my community back home and all the people who have passed on words of wisdom, or donated, or expressed their support in any way. I wasn’t expecting to have so much support, so that has been really awesome.”

Though he hasn’t been obsessing over a specific goal in terms of his time, Nick is shooting to run between 3:15 and 3:30 on race day—but he knows that some things are out of his control. Last year’s marathon saw some rough weather conditions, and the forecast for this coming Monday doesn’t exactly look balmy. But Nick isn’t stressed.

“I’ve been not really worried about that too much. It’s a one time thing and it’s an exciting day, so if it’s a rainy day, I think I’ll do alright.”

Even if Monday brings rain, there’s still plenty to look forward to. The atmosphere will still be full of energy, as it always is for the Boston Marathon. Nick’s family is flying in to cheer him on.

“My mom and my grandpa are coming in to see the race, so I’m looking forward to seeing them after the race.”

If you ever have a conversation with Nick about his marathon training, it’s pretty easy to see that he’s an extremely passionate runner. He’s enjoyed the training program, and even says he’ll miss the long Saturday runs once Marathon Monday has passed.

Whatever happens this Monday, and no matter the weather, Nick is looking forward to reaching the final destination of what has been a long, difficult, and ultimately fulfilling process.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing this journey through. It’s been such a long journey, the fundraising and the training, so I just think it’ll be really cool to see it completed.”

A firm handshake, eye contact, and a quick nod. It's just what I do.