I’ve never run a marathon NOT as part of a charity team. When I ran Chicago in 2006, I ran as an Honored Teammate for Team In Training and raised over $6,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 6 months after my last chemotherapy treatment. This past April for the Boston Marathon, I represented the amazing Pediatric Hem-Onc department at Mass General Hospital and raised a combined $12,000 along with my sister. When I received the phone call this past July that my application had been accepted to be part of Team MR8 for the 2014 NYC Marathon, I was so proud that I could represent the amazingly strong Martin family, and raise money in honor of such a true “Boston” kid.
Between July and November, TeamMR8 mostly stayed in touch over Facebook, and weekly emails from our charity team leader, Susan. Susan’s Friday emails were a highlight of my week; she covered training tips, fundraising successes, and made sure we all had our eyes on the prize- we were running for TeamMR8. In August, I received a whole box of TeamMR8 gear and a personal note from Debbie and Bill, Martin’s parents. I proudly rocked my MR8 gear during my training races, and keep a photo of Martin in my planner, to remind me why I was again asking my friends and family to donate, and why I was putting in the time and miles to train each week.
The day before the marathon, the whole team got together for a carb-loading pre-race meal at Carmine’s in Times Square. It was my first time meeting any team members, even though we felt like old friends since we had emailed so much over the course of the past few months. The dinner was perfect – enough food to keep us all fueled up, and so many smiling faces. At the conclusion of dinner, Bill Martin spoke to the whole team. It was one of the most motivating pep talks I’ve ever received (and I’ve been privy to MANY a pre-game speech). Bill kept thanking us for being part of the team, and raising almost $90,000 for TeamMR8. He spoke about the various programs that the Martin Richard’s Charitable Foundation is able to participate in because of these funds. Perhaps the biggest program at the moment is through the Dorcester YMCA, which was started to allow kids with any type of physical or mental handicap the opportunity to participate in a variety of sports. With the funds that TeamMR8 raises, the foundation is able to roll this program out to YMCA’s and communities across the US to give more children the opportunity to play sports, and be part of their community. It is something that Martin would be so proud of.
Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Bill was finished speaking. I thought about Martin when they played New York, New York as I crossed the start line. I thought about Martin when I saw the kids dancing in front of a band on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. I thought of Martin when I wanted to stop running at Mile 20. I thought of him almost exclusively for the last mile, with tears in my eyes, feeling a true mix of pride and relief. Like I said at the beginning, I’ve never NOT run for a charity team, but I couldn’t imagine running a race like this with any other purpose.