Ask me about the Marathon Challenge

Good morning,

This is a less than subtle attempt to have you send me questions about the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge. To make my intentions even easier—excitedly responding to several emails and talking about the incredible work that you make possible—I have come up with a few questions that you can use. Or, you may also feel free to ask me anything else that comes to mind. Before I encourage you to hit ‘Reply’ at the bottom of the email, there is one, rather important step to complete.

Today you can help me get closer to my personal fundraising goal of $10,000 and, in the process, closer to more lifesaving therapies for cancer patients around the world. There will be many reasons to celebrate the 2014 Boston Marathon including, the 25th running of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, my 10th marathon, my patient partner, Alex, is now done with treatment, and Blair is 2-years cancer free. Thank you for making it an incredible year for all of us returning to finish our marathon challenge.

3…2…1…Here is the part that I alluded to earlier in the email—and subsequently the part of my day where I get to see several fundraising notifications and questions. I expect you were already thinking of how much to give and whom you would like to list on the honor roll; however, in case you haven’t come to that point yet, I’ll offer my unbiased opinion now. The modest response is to give generously in honor of a loved one who was affected by cancer. I’m feeling inclined, though, to ask you to give a little more this year. As you’ll read some of the questions below, I hope you can envision how the answers may change—for tomorrow and the years ahead—because of your very generous support today. 

  • What breakthroughs in cancer research have been possible through the Marathon Challenge?
  • Who are the researchers that receive funding from the Marathon Challenge?
  • How does this funding translate into cancer treatment for patients at Dana-Farber? Around the world?
  • What will be an exciting discovery from the support of the Marathon Challenge this year?
  • What will it be like to run the Boston Marathon this year?
  • What has been the best part of running with the Dana-Farber team for seven consecutive years? 

I can promise that my answers will be entirely void of any hyperbole. My sincere, exclamation marked response, as you may know, can be found in all of the emails I have sent over the years. I even looked up a few to make sure I hadn’t already sent something similar to this. I’m glad I didn’t have to start over at this point.

Thank you for helping me reach my many goals of the 2014 Marathon Challenge…exactly one month to go! 


The “ugh, really?” continues

Adidas made it really easy for me to not buy the official 2014 Boston Marathon jacket. First I wish they could decide if they want the jacket to be a windbreaker, a rain coat, or a running jacket. It’s foremost a bragging right. And I’m fine with that…but a little use out of it would be nice, too. Though, please, keep picking ugly colors. 

The overwhelming disappointment for the color pattern selected by Adidas has been only one of many head-scratching moments where I can’t help but be a little concerned at how out of touch sponsors are. That is unless, of course, Adidas was trying to reach the demographic of Miami Dolphins fans who intend to get caught in a cool and rainy fall day in New England.

We will all remember the iconic images of last year. I get chills and have to take a deep breath when I reflect on the days after April 15. I know I was less affected from the bombings than many other people. I have friends still coping from that day and even my family members are going through a lot after what they witnessed near the finish line. I have been really worried that, as the 2014 Boston Marathon approached, the attention would be heavily focused on celebrating the achievements of the runners.

And my concern was realized when I saw WBZ TV’s promo for the Boston Marathon. The ad begins with the skyline of Boston in the frame, viewed from the Memorial Drive side of the Charles River, as words slowly pan across the screen…”on 4.21.14 we will remember, we will honor, we will celebrate, and run…together.” Runners cut across the screen on a snowy Boston morning just as the words, “and run…together” appear. The first 20 seconds of the ad were perfect until the emphasis was on the runners.

Hey…I am a runner. This will be my 7th year running. Do you know who makes that day the amazing celebration that it is every year for me? The spectators. Primarily my family who will get me out to Hopkinton in the morning and wait for me by Keefe Tech, then again at the Newton Wellesley Hospital, and give me a hug at the Marriott. After my family it has to be the kids who are holding out orange slices and twizzlers in Natick; the students at BC who will yell my name and tell me to keep pushing to the point that I start to hate them; and all the friends cheering me on along the way. April 21, 2014 is about the spectators as well. So, WBZ, we will high-five, hug, yell, say “thanks” AND celebrate together. 

Of course it didn’t end there…

You may have noticed the story on your yahoo home page, preferred online news source, or elsewhere about a few thousand runners who stopped during a California Road Race to thank a 95-year-old WWII veteran. I thought immediately about the heroic men and women who participate in a march each year along the Boston Marathon course. Well, now, that is cancelled. For which, I guess, we have to understand the security reasons behind this decision.

I know I won’t be the first to say, “ugh, really?” However, this news really bothered me today. The marathon easily humbles the toughest people, but, giving the active soldiers a pat on the back as they walk in full gear is definitely up there as one of the most important parts of the 26.2 miles.

The hyper-sensitivity surrounding the Marathon is only going to increase as we get closer to April 21. Undoubtedly there will many incredible, heartwarming, and judgement-altering moments from all those who are involved in the behind the scenes work of the Marathon. I know, sadly, there will be some rather disgusting and terrible moments as well. As we know…it will be a celebration. And, because of that, I will do my best to maintain mostly positive thoughts over the next month and a half. 

"It’s hard to express what it means to return this particular year to the place where I grew up and compete," Flanagan said. "In one word, I guess it would be ‘pride’. I and many in the field will be fueled by those who were affected by the tragedy and will be running for those who cannot."

It’s possible this is one race that will never again be dominated by USA. But, if there were to be just one year, let it be 2014. And, come April 21, I hope Shalane Flanagan is turning onto Boylston with her sights on winning.