Be Connected: Stories from our employees who ran the 2020 'Virtual' Boston Marathon
While most people recognize that running benefits their physical health, the dedication required for marathon training can teach you important lessons you can apply to your everyday life.
Last week, 17,000 runners from all over the world completed the “virtual” Boston marathon. Reilly Zlab, Director of Product Manager for the Department of Innovation and Technology, and Maura Welch, a Speechwriter for Mayor Walsh, offered to share what they learned running the “virtual marathon” with their City of Boston colleagues.
MAURA: "I ran for "Team MR8'' in support of the Martin Richard Foundation. The Martin Richard Foundation does incredible work in the Boston area. Since 2013, they've raised millions of dollars for youth sports, arts, and educational programming that emphasizes inclusion and empowerment for kids with physical and cognitive disabilities.
I spent many years working in youth programs, summer camps, preschools, and after school programs, and as a paraprofessional for kids with disabilities. I believe that investing in quality, affordable programming for kids is one of the most important things we can do as a society. It gives kids a sense of belonging, and it helps them grow as members of a community. The Martin Richard Foundation works to make sure that kids of all income levels and abilities can experience those things, and I was really proud to support them. I'm also really grateful to everyone who contributed to my fundraiser! It was a humbling experience.
This was my fourth marathon, and first Boston, though I'm still looking forward to the day when I can run my first traditional Boston Marathon on Patriots Day. The Boston Marathon is one of my favorite events in the world. I've watched almost every year for as long as I can remember, and nothing compares to it. My dad is actually a track and field official who works at the finish line every year, and that has always made it extra special to me. My friend once said that the Boston Marathon is one of the only sporting events in the world where every spectator is cheering for every competitor, and she was totally right. The Marathon always renews my faith in humanity.
One of the silver linings of the traditional Marathon being cancelled in April was that everyone had the opportunity to design their own course. I chose to run from Gloucester to my hometown of Newburyport, following the coastline the entire time. It was fun to run through a lot of the places where I spent a lot of time as a kid. Growing up, I had every opportunity to run and play outdoors, and it was fun to visit some of those places while raising money for an organization that helps more kids have those same opportunities today. A few friends and family members joined me for various parts of my route, and it was really fun to have the company. Neighbors were also there to cheer me on at my "finish line", which was something I'll never forget. I also asked friends and family to send me songs for my marathon playlist, so that when their song came on, I'd think of them — highly recommend!”
REILLY: “I ran for MGH and the pediatric cancer unit. I ran in honor of one of my first friends (and colleagues) in Boston, Alex, and more specifically her daughter, Clara. Clara received treatment for Rhabdomyosarcoma (i.e. cancer of the soft tissue) beginning at age three. I was in awe of their resilience throughout it all.
The funds raised support a number of things, but to name a few: cancer research, the clinic, child life specialists to ensure families’ overall well-being, and music and art therapy. The art therapy was Clara's favorite. Thankfully Clara is now in remission. I'd think of them often throughout training runs and on the course. All that being said, now that I've gotten to know the team at MGH and the cancer center, I'd do it again for anyone on their team. The staff there are wonderful, and are doing incredible work. The pediatric oncology unit chief, Howard Weinstein, is the team captain — this was his 29th year running.
Truthfully, going into the run, I wasn't sure how it was going to feel. I thought it might be a little lackluster compared to how much hype the traditional Boston Marathon has. I was so wrong. It was such a special experience. I had a variety of friends and family join me throughout training and on the “race course” the day of, either on their bikes, running alongside me, or cheering me on. I started to tear up at different points throughout the course, just feeling so honored to have friends and strangers relish this moment with me, and for Alex and Clara.
It's definitely still on my bucket list to run on Boston Marathon from Hopkinton to Boylston Street, but honestly, training for this was a really nice distraction from the pandemic. I never dreamed that I could sustainably push myself to train for months, through multiple seasons, in single digit temperatures and in 100 degree heat. I do think having the option to run it “virtually” helped, because if we had just stopped in the middle of training, I think I would’ve felt that I didn't finish a personal goal that I set for myself.
Running a marathon takes practice, planning, discipline, and many other strengths that you will carry into other areas of your life. And it reminds you how amazing people are. I'll never have enough words of thanks for everyone that helped me get through it. From my friends and family to the BAA community that showed up all around the globe — it’s incredible to experience."