Leah Temple Lang / Gavel Media

Student Spotlight: BC's Boston Marathoners on Grit, Purpose, and the Balancing Act

This Patriots’ Day, the Boston Marathon will commence on its usual April date for the first time in three years. With the world’s most interesting (and celebratory) Monday just around the corner, Boston College’s campus has come alive with excitement, planning, echoing of Jason Derulo’s top hits, and an admiration of a unique kind: an awe directed at the talented BC students who will be among the race’s 30,000-strong mix.

The array of qualified, charity, and special invitation runners will begin their feat in the small town of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and finish in downtown Boston. They’ll encounter some of the loudest and most notorious cheering sections, however, along Mile 21, where the Boston College community rallies in amazement at both the athleticism displayed and the charitable causes supported by the Marathoners whizzing down Commonwealth Avenue. 

Marathon Monday’s energy is electric, almost transcendent, and the gratitude felt for the reinstallment of this storied tradition cannot be overemphasized. As a Boston College student on race day, you'll squish against the Comm Ave gates and scream your heart out, convinced you’ve reached your cap on feeling captivated—that is, until you watch several fellow BC students inside the Comm Ave gates, running, working through their 21st mile. A recognition that this student body consists of some of the most impressive young individuals conceivable is not novel, but that wonderment reaches a new height when applied to a student-marathoner’s context. 

I had the pleasure of interviewing two student marathoners the week before the run, and I framed my questions around three core points. First, grit, or a picture of their running history and training. Second, purpose, or their inspirations in selecting charities and in opting to run a marathon. And finally, the balancing act, or how they could possibly pull something like this off. 

Brigid Knowles, MCAS ‘23, is an economics major and accounting minor from Westchester County, New York. A member of the club lacrosse team and a Special Olympics volunteer, Brigid cited the meaningful conversations shared here as her favorite thing about Boston College. When asked to select one BC dining meal to eat for the rest of her life, she sided with the classic and reliable: chicken with two sides.  

Danielle Morin, MCAS ‘22, studies environmental geoscience and sociology with a minor in managing for social impact. An RA, volunteer, tutor, and member of BC’s liturgy arts group from Denver, Colorado, Danielle is passionately committed to advocating for environmental justice. Of BC’s great qualities, she most appreciates the mutual care experienced within our campus environment. Her dining meal of choice? Lentil soup. “It’s steady.”

 

On Grit

Q: When did you start running?

Brigid: I’ve run my whole life. I suppose I’ve also been an athlete my whole life: I was a big field hockey player in high school, as well as a lacrosse player, and running is just something ingrained in my life and in my family. My mom’s done marathons, and my parents always stressed the importance of getting outside and exercising. It’s definitely something that I used for an outlet then, and I absolutely use it for an outlet now.

Danielle: Growing up in Colorado, I did a lot of hiking and a lot of running on my own. My family is a really active family, and I’m grateful that through them, I was introduced to my love of the outdoors at a young age. I love being outside—it’s such a beautiful time to connect. Also, I did a half marathon when I was a freshman in high school, which was pretty young. 

Q: Paint me a brief picture of your marathon training regimen. 

Brigid: I followed the standard training timeframe, but done independently. This gave me more flexibility with my busy schedule. My mom, having run marathons, was an extremely helpful resource and provided me with a training plan that had worked for her. She is a really well experienced runner, and I just knew I wanted to follow her framework. 

Danielle: I run with the Hale Education team, following a standard 16-week training schedule designed by our two coaches. They are a father-daughter duo, and they are wonderful. Oddly, as I have been training for the Marathon, I’ve come to actually really love running up hills. It makes me feel like I’m in the zone, and I can really focus. I’m listening to my body and feeling the power of my movement. And it’s like the fuzz leaves my brain. That’s a very cool feeling. 

Q: How do you define a successful run? 

Brigid: If I’m being honest, getting through it. But I personally try to keep myself to an average pace, which makes me realize how crucial goal setting is. Then again, if I don’t finish my run at a certain time, I never view it as the end of the world. 

Danielle: I really want to enjoy the journey. I find that I am able to feel proud of myself, and very grateful for what my body can deal with. Yeah, I think gratitude is what makes a run successful. 

 

On Purpose

Q: Why do you run?

Brigid: There are various motivations I can point to. I know that I feel better when I go for a run, and I feel better afterwards, but there is also such a network of support in running that I haven’t experienced in another field. Especially in training for this race. There are so many people who have supported and who continue to support me, so getting up and running everyday for the people who have built me up is a huge part of the process.

Danielle: I think I run because it helps me to be my best self. It helps me to be a more loving person. And the more loving I am to myself, the more loving I can be to other people and in the world. And it makes me feel brave and courageous. When I run I feel like I can trust myself, and it’s a sense of empowerment. That’s very translatable into other parts of my life. 

Q: What made you decide to run the Boston Marathon? 

Brigid: I’ve always been interested. I’ve never run a marathon before, or even a half marathon, but the biggest deciding factor for me was the idea that I could be doing this for a cause. And advocating for a cause while doing something that I love, that being running. I thought that there was no better time to run the marathon than as a student at Boston College, because all of your friends will be here cheering you on, and it’s such a special day on our campus. 

Danielle: When I was a freshman, I watched all of the runners run past Mile 21 and it was incredible. And as much as I was amazed by the pro runners and the qualified runners, the people I felt most inspired by were the charity runners, because I could see myself with them. I could see how much love they had poured in, and how it really was done as a part of something so much bigger than themselves. And I wanted to be a part of that too. 

Q: Tell me about your charity and fundraising efforts. Why did you select your cause? 

Brigid: I’ve been involved with the Special Olympics organization since I was in 7th grade, so choosing my charity was easy. The organization has given to me so much more than I’ve given to it. It has taught me so many lessons about perspective, and seeing life through other people’s eyes. Being around that group of Olympians has provided me with some of my favorite moments that I’ve ever had, whether at BC or at home. They are really special people, and I’m so lucky to have had them in my life from a young age. My aunt has Down syndrome, and she is someone close to my heart. I am always having her in the back of my head as a big part of my motivation. For fundraising, my goal was $10,000, and I am currently at $12,280. That number is a product of an outpouring of support from my whole community.

Danielle: I’m running for Hale education, which is an outdoor education nonprofit for Boston public school kids. I love what they do, especially in facilitating outdoor access for students who wouldn’t otherwise have that opportunity. In addition to closing the achievement gap, they want to close what they call the nature gap. In a lot of my classes at BC, we’ve talked about environmental justice, and I’ve come to realize it’s really important for people’s health, but also their emotional wellbeing. My fundraising goal was $8,000, which will go directly toward funding to support the Hale program. 

 

On Balance

Q: How do you balance training for a marathon and being a Boston College student? 

Brigid: I would say that I thrive off having structure in my life. Being a student and having a class schedule and time to study definitely provides me with this, but running adds a new activity to juggle. It comes down to the routine of getting up every morning and saying ok, I have this far to run today. Training unexpectedly enhanced my schedule and the structure already present in my life, and that’s something I’ve definitely appreciated. 

Danielle: If I didn’t listen to my body, it wouldn’t work. Running gives me a special kind of energy that I cannot replicate without it. When I take a second to center myself, I sometimes stop and realize things like oh, I just did a 22 mile training run and now I have to do this assignment for class. But I also need to be sleeping well, eating well, and caring for myself in a gentle way. 

Q: Do you have a favorite way to unwind, or a go-to centering practice? 

Brigid: I like meditation, and lately I’ve really enjoyed listening to podcasts. I’ll listen while I run too. 

Danielle: I love journaling. When I run, I let my thoughts wander, but journaling forces me to stay focused, and to really process what’s going on. 

 Q: What do you wish more people knew about running?  What noteworthy advice would you share with the world?

Brigid: At the end of the day, just do it for yourself. There is no right or standard way to meet your needs, to provide yourself with motivation and benefits that will enhance your life. On my training journey, eventually my parents would stop coaching me and it became a personal habit, a great outlet. Once you start pursuing a meaningful passion for yourself, it almost becomes addicting. And it’s definitely empowering. I always feel so different after a run. Moving your body is one of the best things you can do. That means different things for different people, but the message stands. 

Danielle: There’s this Olympic runner named Alexi Pappas. She wrote a book called Bravey, which I read and loved. It is a must-read book for any runner. As for general advice, I would share that all bodies are good bodies, and that a love of movement is really what can fuel a person. I’ve had many friends over the past 16 weeks say things like, “I could never do what you are doing,” and in response I say, you are doing really incredible things that you love. That is enough. So do what you love, and let that fuel you. Trust yourself and chase your dreams, and you’ll come to realize you’re capable of more than you think you are. 

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