Run With It: Running for a Cause in Boston

For many in the running community, the Boston Marathon is the hallmark, the sought after race to run, the unicorn.  While the most common way to run the Boston Marathon is to submit a qualifying time to obtain an entry, it is not the only way to run. 

For Jennifer (she/her), running Boston had always been a dream. Jennifer decided that she would run Boston via the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a charity team that raises money for cancer research. The cause held personal meaning for Jennifer. 

Photo by Marathon Fotos

In this week’s Run With It Series, we interviewed Jennifer on her experience running the Boston marathon. Jennifer is a local Torontonian who is an avid runner and lover of travel. She has completed 4 of the 6 World Marathon Major races including Boston, Chicago, London, and New York. 

Why did you want to run Boston? 

It was shortly after I began running in 2014, at the age of 44, that I found out about the World Marathon Majors. This seemed like a great opportunity to marry my love for world travel with my new found “hobby” of running.  I decided for Boston, I would love to run for charity. Cancer research had always been a very important cause to my family, having lost my father to colon cancer in 2011 and two cousins to pancreatic cancer in 2010 and 2020.  I was very happy and honoured to have a way of fighting back against cancer while also helping bring new meaning to my running.  Having done a great deal of fundraising in my past for the cancer charities through work and also personally through other local fundraising events, I knew this experience would help me to continue to fight against cancer while helping me to achieve my big dream goal of collecting all 6 stars of the World Marathon Majors.  

What does running with a charity offer that perhaps a lottery or qualifier does not?

There is an extensive application process to running for charity which people often are not aware of.  Each charity has an application process that you must go through, and in the case of Boston, may require pre-screening interviews.  The application process asks you to first register with the charity to notify you of their application dates.  There may be a pre-application interview and once the applications are open, you will be invited to apply.  At this point, you will be interviewed sometimes a second time to detail your fundraising plan and your connection to the cause you have chosen to run for.  It helps a great deal when you are passionate about raising money for a particular cause, and is a lot easier to get donations if your ”why” is personal and meaningful.  Also, for Boston there are minimum fundraising requirements outlined by the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) which are slightly higher than those you may encounter in other fundraising racing/walking events.  

Running for a charity, however rigorous the acceptance process, is an extremely rewarding experience as a runner.  When the going gets tough, you know there are people behind you backing your efforts and you have a well of support to draw upon in the dark moments of the marathon!  Knowing that you are fighting for a deeper cause, gives much more meaning to every step closer to the finish line. In joining a charity team, you have access to team meetings, merchandise perks, assistance along the way for ideas to help reach your fundraising goal, a professional coach who provides support, training plans and advice, group runs, motivational monthly emails and fundraising updates, weekly Instagram posts, as well as Strava and Facebook groups that can help connect you to the people on the team.  

What training did you do? 

I knew I needed to put in a solid training block to perform my very best for this marathon; I really wanted Boston to be special.  I enlisted the help of a friend of mine who was a seasoned Boston repeat qualifier, who helped me draw up a training plan which we evaluated month by month.  Winter proved to be the biggest obstacle in training as there were so many below freezing days, and so much snow in winter of 2022.  The workouts were also a new challenge for me because I hadn’t done tempo work, speed and hill training since before the pandemic.  With my friend’s help we found ways to make training fun while putting in the work to have a successful race.  It sometimes took a lot to keep positive through the conditions and when training was tough in the high volume weeks before the taper.  It also helped to have a couple of good training buddies to help get through some of the tough weeks!    


How was your marathon experience? 

Photo by Marathon Fotos

Boston was every bit what I expected and so, so much more! From bib pick up, the expo, the merchandise, the energy of thousands of runners on the streets of Boston race weekend, and the wonderful volunteers, everything was so energy charged!  What made it extra special were the throngs of people lining the street race day, for 26.2 miles.  So many people cheered, called out my name, and many thanked me for supporting my charity, where their loved one was perhaps treated in the past or undergoing treatment currently.  It was so motivating and seemed to push you along!  The number of volunteers, fuel, nutrition and medical support was unlike any other race.  There were never moments where you felt like you were forgotten or alone for stretches of the race.  This race takes over the city and the people are right there with you for 26.2 miles!  


What advice would you give for the non traditional runner in the running community?

My advice to runners is don’t be afraid to dream big and make those dreams come true.  Go out there and find meaning to your running, something that helps bring joy to it, and gets you out the door everyday.  Running for charity really helped me get through the pandemic and have something to focus on that made my running purposeful, and meaningful.  Running for something bigger than yourself really makes a difference, not only in the lives of the people you touch in doing so, but also in learning more about your own self.   I hope to have the opportunity to run the remaining World Marathon Majors for charity, and I am looking forward to exploring new places in the world through my running.