As I sit here on this rainy Monday in April, I have been thinking about how in just less than six weeks, I will be graduating from Suffolk University. Throughout my past four years there have been many highs and lows. I met so many great individuals from across the world while working Orientation programs, I studied at Suffolk’s Madrid Campus for a semester and received an all-around a great education. But something that stood out for me was something I will remember for the rest of my life. In the spring of my freshman year, I realized that I put on the infamous “Freshman 15”. I decided to go for a run, and something miraculous happened… I didn’t die.
For the next couple of weeks, I ran every single day and started seeing some results. After a couple of months of constant training, I completed my first half marathon. The feeling of completing the half was a feeling that I have never experience before. That night, I was having a conversation with my Aunt Maria and my father (both Boston Marathon runners, my aunt being a six completer and my Dad who ran the year I was born) about the days half marathon. I told them that I needed that feeling again. I proposed the idea of beginning to train for the 2015 Boston Marathon that upcoming April. My aunt Maria who is an experienced runner, offered to train me.
After deciding that I wanted to begin this journey, I realized to be eligible to participate in the Boston Marathon, it is a requirement to either qualify or run for a charity. I decided that I wanted to create my own personal foundation that would benefit two close friends of mine from my hometown of Tyngsborough, Massachusetts. The name of my foundation was “Team Tyngsborough Tough”, the two young men that I ran for, were the definition of this title. Connor Flanagan, 16 and Jack Trottier, 19 (age during the time of Marathon). Connor was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia at the age of just five years old. Throughout Connor’s journey he has endured a roller coaster of highs and lows. Since being in remission eight years ago, Connor experienced a double lung collapse and was living over a track for a year and a half until he received a double lung transplant in October 2013. Jack's story is a bit different. Jack was the star athlete and an all-around great kid, during his junior year he was doing five foot jumps on his snowboard in a friend’s backyard (much different from his typical 40 ft jumps). Unfortunately, Jack landed a certain way cracking his C-6 vertebrae leaving him paralyzed from the elbows down. Jack's determination over the past four years has been so incredibly inspiring to watch. These two individuals’ stories of determination got me through every single training run during the infamous “snowpocalypse of 2015".
Throughout the four months of training, I created a “GoFundme” page, where I reached out to hundreds of former teachers, supervisors, family and friends. Whenever they heard who I was running for, they couldn’t grab their wallets fast enough. I also sold Marathon fan shirts so that my supporters could wear them throughout Marathon Monday and around after that to get the word out about the foundation.
On Marathon Monday, the day was not picturesque; it was dark, cold and rainy with high winds. I remember vividly entering only mile 11 in Wellesley, MA and feeling my body become hypothermic. I remembered speaking with Connor's Dad and him saying that their family and the Trottier’s would be between miles 15-16. I remember thinking to myself, there is no way that I can stop now in front of these two young men. When I passed Connor and Jack, I felt tears coming down my cold cheeks. After everything they have been through they have never given up.
Running marathons are like roller-coasters that you have never been on. There are moments of hills with triumph and others with agony and doubt. When I reached the infamous Heartbreak Hill, I was cheered on by my entire family and a couple of friends, including my Aunt Maria who trained me. I waved to them and just as I turned, my left calf contorted into a massive ball that brought me to the ground. Before I knew it, I was in a stretcher being told from the medical tent they didn’t want me to finish. I took a salt pill and said, “There is no way that I can ever let those two guys down. “Much to my surprise, my aunt appeared in full running gear and she ran the last nine miles with me. For my whole life, one of my life goals was to run in the Boston Marathon with my Aunt.
Crossing the finish line with my Aunt, was by far the greatest moment of my entire life. With tears streaming down both of our faces we celebrated something I dreamed about my entire life, not only running the Boston Marathon but with my best friend. Even though Connor and Jack weren’t physically there, they were. When the foundation was completed, we raised a total of exactly $15,000 for these two incredible families. Giving these checks to these two young men and their families, whom have inspired me and so many people, were also moments I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The 2015 Boston Marathon was the definition of life: hard work and giving back to those in need.