2020 Boston Marathon® Team gets real about the challenges of the year

2020 has been quite a year. For our Boston Marathon team, the uncertainty of the year has thrown many wrenches in their plans to run 26.2 miles back in April. In our new blog, the team talks about the challenges the year has brought, how they’re coping with their grief, and their plans for completing their commitment.

How will you be participating in the 2020 Marathon – September group run, solo “virtual,” already ran it, or some other way?

Avery: Back in April, although devastated by the postponement, I decided that I wasn’t going to let my training go to waste and I ran a marathon route in the South Shore. From my house in Norwell, past the beaches in Scituate, and through the streets of Cohasset and Hingham, I ran a tough 26.2 miles on Marathon Monday. I was met by friends and family along the way (all at least 6 feet apart, of course!). Seeing so many familiar and happy faces after over a month stuck at home was such a surreal feeling. The feelings of love and support were unmatched. I managed to vlog the run on my Instagram and posted updates every few miles which resulted in countless responses and more donations. It was such an amazing day overall. Having so many close friends and family holding signs and banners and cheering me on along the way reminded me how much good there is in the little things.

Callie: Between the transition to a virtual event and the necessity to train through the hot summer months, I felt it best to sit this one out for my own physical and mental health. I don’t consider myself to be a competitive runner, so for me the virtual event isn’t the same. The crowd motivates me, they really keep me going, and not having them along the course just wouldn’t be the same for me so I made the difficult decision to not participate.

Caroline: I won’t be running the full 26.2 this fall, but do plan to do my own run either here in D.C. or with the group in Boston in September.

Dennis: I will be participating in the group run.

Jacqueline: I plan on running the marathon in September with the Samaritans team!

Jessica: I will run virtually with a friend.  She is not registered for the marathon, but has been a great training partner and supporter.

Stephanie: I am sad to say that I will not be participating in September, but am in full support of all of my teammates who may be participating in their first ever virtual marathon! I was running on injury and would have crawled over that finish line on September 14th for Teddy. If I am being 100% honest, knowing the new race date was solely going to be virtual… it was not the race or the platform I had envisioned for him. Not the race I signed-up for. To train all over again and put my body under more stress to not physically cross the Boston Marathon finish line took the wind out of the sails for me.

Tim: I will run the Boston Marathon “virtually” from my home in Southern California. I will run it solo along the Coast Trail, which runs parallel to the Pacific Coast Highway. The route will take me through the cities of Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach and Seal Beach, CA. The course also takes me through two counties, Orange County and Los Angeles County.

It’s been such a tough year, and so difficult on everyone’s spirits. We know that’s even tougher when you’re training for a major event, processing your grief from a loss, and it gets canceled. What have you been doing to keep your spirits and morale high?

Avery: After the loss of my senior year of high school and the marathon I was pretty bummed, but I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family to boost morale. I also was able to go back to work in June so being able to reunite with my work family was so heartwarming! I work at the Rivershed, a local restaurant in Scituate, so there’s always new and smiling faces to see and keep my spirits high. My coworkers and I are like our own little family and I couldn’t imagine spending these uncertain times with anyone else.

Callie: To be perfectly transparent, it’s been really challenging, and some days are better than others. Feeling stuck is a tough position to be in. Working from home is not my favorite thing, I enjoy the hustle and bustle of the office, love my walks to and from work, so not having that makes it a little difficult to consistently be motivated. I’m trying to stay active, which helps. And then staying in close contact with family and friends and leaning on my support system when need be. Bottom line, I’m just taking it day by day, as that’s all you can really do in these unprecedented times filled with so much unknown.

Dennis: It has been tough for sure with ups and downs. I joined the team late and was trying to jam miles at the last minute for the original date. When it was cancelled again, it really took the wind out of my sail completely. I’m just trying to get some decent miles in and finish next month.

Jacqueline: Having the marathon cancelled on top of being sent home from college was very difficult this Spring. I have decided to look at all the wonderful things that this pandemic has gifted me—like an incredible amount of time to spend with my cousins and grandmother.

Jessica: This has been an exceptionally difficult year. I admit my spirits are not that high and it has been a struggle to stay motivated.  But I try and focus on the positive things – I have my health, as do my friends and family, thankfully.

Stephanie: I had started out saying, “This is going to be my year.” I think most people start the year off with such high hopes. There are days that have seemed impossible and days where I see the silver lining. I grieved Teddy’s absence through every mile of training. I cried knowing he was gone but smiled thinking of him. I had envisioned carrying his name over that finish line over and over again. The silver lining? Raising nearly $16k for suicide awareness, sharing my cousin’s story and living a life of purpose for him.

Tim: It has been a very tough year. Recognizing the many losses our nation, and world, have suffered through this pandemic makes it understandable that one personal goal being impacted must be accepted. However, the continued uncertainty of the race has created an ongoing out-of-balance condition. First the elation of being accepted, then the disappointment of being delayed, the cautious optimism of the potential new date, then postponed, then ultimately cancelled. This is followed by the organizers decision deny the opportunity to defer 2020’s acceptance to a future race. My reaction, like all loss, has been a range of emotions; including anger, bargaining, and acceptance. Most critically, is the sense of failure I feel towards the many sponsors and donors who I committed to complete the Boston Marathon. Their donations came with an implicit compact that I would run the Boston Marathon in Maggie’s memory. I keep my morale and motivation knowing that I am very fortunate to be able to train this summer.  I pray and volunteer to assist the many who are struggling during this time.

What has your training been like in all of the uncertainty?

Avery: I have actually stopped training because in the next few weeks I will be moving to Colorado for my freshman year of college. Although I am sad that I won’t be able to run in the fall, it was the best decision based on travel safety amid the pandemic.

Callie: While I am not training, I am staying active and trying to get out for some runs when the heat isn’t too bad, and when it is, I hop on the Peloton for a good ride.

Caroline: Although I haven’t been training up to a full marathon since the original date was initially postponed, I did eventually pick back up a training schedule for a shorter distance. Amidst all the uncertainty, it’s been really nice to have a schedule with some consistency and to continue working towards a set goal, despite ambiguity around so many other factors.

Dennis: Training has been very up and down with postponements. I certainly took a lot of time off after the official cancellation. I’m now finally getting back into it.

Jessica: Training has been very difficult. My emotions have been all over the place and the latest heat waves haven’t helped. I anticipate completing this marathon as a run/walk hybrid and I’m ok with that.

Jacqueline: Training has been quite difficult due to the uncertainty of whether/when the marathon was going to occur. My training has been inconsistent (at best) but the support of my friends and family has kept me confident that everything will work out.

Tim: I have continued to train, as I committed to, in Maggie’s memory. Even though events beyond control have upended my ability to see this commitment through in Boston, I have kept up my commitment for Maggie’s many supporters and family.

What was the most interesting part of your fundraising?

Avery: I think the most interesting part of fundraising is seeing how many people were so generous as to support someone they barely knew. I received countless donations from friends of a friend, childhood family friends, and even some anonymous donors. It was touching to see how kind people were for such an amazing cause. I received so much love and support from people who knew me merely as a social media friend or distant family friend. I am glad that I was able to connect with so many wonderful people and to receive the support that I did.

Callie: Between this year and last, I think the most interesting part or maybe fulfilling is when people respond with their own stories, which then sparks conversations and I think that is such a critical component of fundraising-to get people talking about mental health and suicide to hopefully help those in need and end the stigmas surrounding these very life altering topics.

Caroline: The most interesting part of fundraising for me was seeing how many people Samaritans’ message resonates with. Fundraising for the marathon was a big step for me personally to be more open about suicide and how it has impacted my life. Since stigma can be such a barrier for so many people who need help, having more open conversations about suicide is so important. Fundraising for Samaritans was my way to spark many of those conversations with friends, colleagues, and family.

Dennis: With this being my second time running for Samaritans I was certainly worried about asking friends and family to donate again. I got off to a really good start before this all hit. I’m looking to make a strong push in August and September.

Jacqueline: I reached out to my brother Alex’s boss from the computer science company he worked for during a gap year. It was great to hear about how they still talk about Alex and how Alex’s impact at the company is long-lasting. They were incredibly generous in their donation to my fundraiser.

Jessica: People’s overwhelming generosity.  The support I received was truly amazing.

Tim: The incredibly generous support of so many people and such a broad range of giving. I have been deeply moved by the number of people and organizations who have recognized this opportunity to honor Maggie. As important as their generosity are their wonderful, loving comments and thoughtful memories.

Everyone on the team this year is running in memory of a loved one lost to suicide. Could you share a story about the person you’re running for?

Dennis: I’m running in memory of my former athlete Kevin Friedland and former High school teammate Shawn White. While I had different relationships with both, the common theme was not knowing that either was suffering. Since then I have had several athletes that have had their struggles. It’s important to just know there are always people in your corner.

Jessica: One of my favorite memories of my brother is from when we were younger. On Christmas Eve, we would have a sleep over in one of our rooms, and when we woke up the next morning, we would exchange the gifts we got for each other.

Stephanie: I remember how devastated I was after hearing the news of the first EVER cancellation of the 124th Boston Marathon. I had already completed my 19-mile training run and could just about see the finish line. One more long run before training started to lighten-up. After drying my tears, I was able to laugh. My cousin was quite the prankster and typical Teddy fashion, he wanted me to train for the Boston Marathon not just once, but twice.

Tim: I think of Maggie traveling with me. We visited some wonderful places around the world. She was always so excited and enthusiastic to visit new places. Her sense of unbridled adventure always took over from my sense of safety and responsibility. Invariably, we would get lost in the Hutongs of China, the ruins of Rome or some remote “off the path” place we should never be on an African safari. Someone told us once, “Maggie, you are a traveler. Tim, you are a tourist.”

What else do you want our supporters to know about your journey? 

Avery: 2020 has been quite the year for us all. Although it is not at all what I had pictured it, it has it’s own positive aspects. I’ve been able to focus more on my own well being as well as create more meaningful friendships. Nothing this year has gone the way it was expected but that is the beauty of it. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you expect them to and you just have to continue on and seek out the good in the little things.

Jacqueline: I am so proud to be running the marathon with some of my teammates despite all the challenges that have been thrown our way over the past year.

Stephanie: To speak freely about this process. This was never about the medal. It was never about a swanky finisher’s jacket or a photo-op at the end of 26.2 miles. It was always about Teddy, about raising awareness for suicide and mental health … about ending the stigma. I can never bring Teddy back, I will never know what he was thinking in those final moments, or how alone he must have felt. Through this process I am able to let go of my guilt. The guilt of “not knowing” and “not seeing the signs.” I am blessed to have had Teddy in my life as my protector, my built-in comedian, and my best friend. Instead of carrying around the guilt of his absence on my shoulders, I am going to smile, a little smile, just for Teddy.

To support the 2020 Marathon team and learn more about each runner’s story, please visit our team’s GoFundMe Charity page.