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Running for more than a finish line

Posted by Chrissy Horan April 29, 2014 09:42 PM

My cousin Liz started running with a New Year’s resolution in 2013. That year, I ran her first race, the Harpoon 5-Miler, with her. She has since completed a bunch more including 2 half marathons. I’m proud to say she’s hooked.

I’m even more proud that she decided to fundraise for her next half marathon, the Heartbreak Hill Half. She’s raising money for a camp for kids with disabilities that her sister attended before passing away last fall. Liz set her goal to raise $1000 and is surprised that she has already surpassed it with over a month to go before the race. I’m not.

Fundraising is way scarier before you get started. Having raised money for 8 Boston Marathons and several other races in between, I’ve gotten over that fear. Here are some of my tricks and tips that have helped me fundraise year after year.

  1. Fundraising will be most successful if the cause is meaningful to you. People are often uncomfortable asking their friends and family to make donations. If a cause is truly important to you, you shouldn’t feel bad asking for donations. After all, it’s not like it’s ending up in your pocket. And chances are if the cause is important to you, it’s important to some of your friends and family too.
  2. Trick you family and friends into donating by paying for goods and services they would purchase anyway. OK, so don’t exactly lie to them, but you can find ways to raise funds without making direct asks. Even if someone doesn’t have a specific tie to a cause, they might be willing to pay for a wine tasting event or bid on a auction item. This year, I held a “spa day” fundraiser at Tranquility Day Spa. I spoke to the owner after a pedicure one day and told her I was running the marathon for the Alzheimer’s Association. Long story short, she said she’d love to help! My friends had no problem scheduling appointments for massages and manicures and Tranquility generously donated 50% from all services to the Alzheimer’s Association.
  3. Don’t discount even the smallest donations. I have friends who each year get a chunk of their fundraising done doing an old-fashioned boot drive, soliciting donations in a boot walking through stopped traffic at busy town intersections. (The first time I heard the term, I actually didn’t know what a boot drive was.) Lots of loose change collected over a few hours on a Saturday afternoon has equaled over $1000 in donations for them!

  4. Have a strategy. Just posting your fundraising link on Facebook does not raise thousands of dollars for most people. Have a few ideas planned to increase your chances of reaching the most people. It might take some planning, but the worst that can happen is you raise more than you planned.
  5. Get creative. I fundraised for my first race in 2004. Sure my networks have grown and changed, but there are a lot of folks who have been getting emails from me for all 10 years. Every year, I try to find a new idea. This year, it was creating t-shirts. I designed a shirt around this year’s race and with permission from the Alzheimer’s Association, sold them to the team, in addition to my friends and family. I worked with One Billion Shirts to produce the shirts. I chose them because in addition to making a great shirt, they also donate $.25 from each shirt back to the charity of the customer’s choice. And as it turns out, they were also really nice to work with.
  6. Say thank you. Whether someone donated $5 or $500, let them know you appreciate it. I try to send quick email and Facebook thank yous as donations arrive. After the event however, I take the time to create cards, usually with a photo from the race and a personal note to thank my donors as well as let them know how the race and my fundraising ended up.

Since I can’t write the check myself, fundraising for a charity is one way for me to try to cause change around issues that are important to me. And combing it with running just makes it more fun. Yet despite my unsolicited, hardly-an-expert advice, I know fundraising will never appeal to some. But if you are considering it, I would encourage you not to let your fears get in the way of doing something I can guarantee will make your race even more rewarding.

Consider my 2 cents your first donation.


As always, let me know what you think and what’s going on in your running community. Post comments here or email me at RunAlongBoston@gmail.com.

Heart, not legs, carry runners to the finish line

Posted by Chrissy Horan April 24, 2014 09:08 AM

Since I watched my first Boston Marathon from my Cambridge apartment on April 16, 2001, Patriot’s Day has been one of my favorite days of the year. As I later volunteered and then ran the race, I grew to not only love the event, but also the spirit of the city on this particular day each year.

This year was the same…but different. It's been a crazy year of lows and highs but I think the marathon was the grand celebration that everyone wished for after the year of hurting, healing and hoping. It was not just the spirit of the city that shined but also its will.

The 2014 Marathon had one of the highest official finishing rates in the race’s history, with 90% of starters finishing before the course officially closed at 6:15, according to competitor.com. However, if you count all those who came in after 6:15, the rate was more like 99%. Finishing was the goal, even if everything else was going wrong; these runners did not run with their legs, but with their hearts.

Boston has found some comfort over the last year when there have been reasons to celebrate as a city. If the Red Sox winning the World Series last year was the icing on the cake, Meb winning this year’s Boston Marathon was the cherry on top. The first American to win the race on over 30 years, Meb Kefelzighi ran a personal best of 2:08:37 to capture the victory.

Meb winning was pretty darn awesome. I saw runners crying as the news spread from the crowds through the course (Afterall, I was still in Newton and the man had the laurel wreath on his head!) But what may be even more impressive was this story of how the US runners, led by Ryan Hall, worked together to help an American win the race. This race was not only important to Boston, or even the running community, but perhaps the entire country.

For the spectators, it seemed it was still, as I heard it described, a “giant block party.” But to me, it also felt like the crowds were more engaged, really rooting on each and every runner, wanting them to finish. I know there was a greater security presence along the course this year, and while I certainly noticed that, I also noticed there were more signs, more “team” t-shirts and more cowbells.

I’m sure it was only by coincidence, but I seemed to catch more of my friends and family along the course than last year, which was a tremendous boost. For the first time, however, my parents and boyfriend were not at the finish line to see me on Boylston Street. Although they tried, a slower than usual train ride on the D line from Newtown-Wellesley Hospital, where they did see me pass, did not get them to Boylston Street in time.

I thought I would be more emotional making those final 2 turns on to Hereford and then Boylston. Perhaps it was the positive energy of the crowds, the comfort of seeing my friend’s family or the cramps starting in my shins that I was not going to let slow me down, but surprisingly, not a tear was shed.

I finished slightly slower than I had hoped, but not disappointed. I walked through the finish area, clear-headed and taking it all in. For the first time, I had run this marathon with my phone in my “fanny pack.” The bruise it left on my lower back was worth the sense of relief it brought, just in case.

Happily, I didn’t need it except to find them after I had gotten my medal and warmth retention blanket (which really was warm!). I hobbled down to the corner of Boylston and Arlington, to reunite just feet from where we met last year. The hugs were just as tight, but anxiety and panic were replaced by joy and pride.

It was a great day for Boston. It was a great day to run.

As always, let me know what you think and what’s going on in your running community. Post comments here or email me at RunAlongBoston@gmail.com.

Marathon Tribute Highlights the Strength of Community

Posted by Chrissy Horan April 16, 2014 04:37 AM

Despite the rain and clouds, there was no hesitation getting up Tuesday morning to run. I knew for the last 364 days that I would run on this day. I needed to run, and not just because the marathon is less than a week away. Running is how I deal with everything, at least in part, that causes me stress, discomfort or pain. The anniversary of the most frightening day of my life met the criteria.

I was also a bit anxious for the Marathon Tribute I was scheduled to attend that afternoon. When offered the opportunity to attend, I knew I could not miss it. Yet, I had no idea what it would entail and how I might respond. The pit in my stomach on my bus ride to the Hynes Convention Center felt more like I was going to the dentist to get a cavity filled. What if I cried my eyes out?

tribute: (noun) an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration.

Fortunately, the Tribute was just that. It paid respect to the lives lost, celebrated the successes of the survivors and the strength of the community. The program consisted of musical performances and speeches from survivors and politicians, including Mayor Menino, Mayor Walsh, Governor Patrick and Vice President Biden.

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The speeches for the survivors were inspiring. While honest about the difficulties and challenges they have faced over the last year, I was amazed how each was able to give thanks to the community that has and continues to support them.

My greatest comfort came from Mayor Menino. As he walked on stage to a standing ovation, I felt a calm similar to when, as a child, my mother would tell me everything would be all right. He told the audience “This day will always be hard,” but that this place will always be strong. He reassured the audience that included survivors, first responders, medical professionals and marathon volunteers that they “are strong in this broken place.” His words felt like a giant hug on the room.

Following the tribute, the crowd filed down Boylston Street, filling the grandstands, to observe a moment of silence at 2:49pm. I held it together through the tribute, even the survivor’s speeches, but those darn bagpipes get me every time. The rain seemed to fall a bit harder while we stood there, but no one complained about getting soaked.

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As we waited for the ceremony to start, I recalled where I might have been the minutes leading up to the bombing; I crossed the finish line at 2:45 last year. I thought about where my parents and boyfriend were at 2:49. I didn’t know at the time they were in front of the Old South Church. I thought about how the next (maybe?) 10 minutes were possibly the scariest 10 minutes of my life. This day will always be hard.

As Mayor Menino said in his speech, strength thrives even in the heartaches of today because of the people of Boston. All of the speakers reminded me how community, whether the city of Boston, the running community or survivor support groups helped the wounds inflicted on this city and it’s people heal. On the anniversary of the marathon bombings, as we grieve and recover, each in our own way, we reflect on the past and move forward together.

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As always, let me know what you think and what’s going on in your running community. Post comments here or email me at RunAlongBoston@gmail.com.

Photo Shoot Captures Energy on Boylston Street

Posted by Chrissy Horan April 12, 2014 05:01 PM

12 miles. Just 12 miles today! I tried to mentally prepare for today’s “long” run as I would for an 18 or 20 miler, but I just felt so much more relaxed as I drove out to Heartbreak Hill to meet the Run to End Alzheimer’s team for our final group run.

Note to self, maybe this is how I should have been approaching long runs all season.

I chose to meet for our scheduled team run rather than head to the finish line for the Sports Illustrated photo shoot which welcomed the public to fill Boylston Street for pictures for an upcoming magazine cover. Not surprising to the people of Boston, or the running community, the shoot was not lacking subjects despite my absence.

For me, it was important to fully participate in my last team run. This is the group I have trained with for month and the training partners with whom I have shared many miles. Our planned route was from Newton to the finish line, so at the very least, I figured I would get to see the end of the photo shoot. As I ran down Beacon Street with some of my usual long run partners, Bob, Ken and Dale, we saw a ton of runners heading back our way, presumably coming from the photo shoot. While it may have been common to see runners in large packs along the Newton Hills all winter, I have never experienced that on Beacon Street. Runners in their team singlets and 2013 race shirts ran towards us with high fives and shouts of “Nice job!”. Some were friends, but most strangers other than the fact they shared the bond of the Boston running community.

We did make it to the finish line and while the crowds had in fact largely broken up, many people still remained; including Carlos Arredondo, who in 30 seconds of interactions and photos with my teammates made me feel relaxed and at ease.

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We may have lingered a little longer than a suggested on such a run, but something else that still had not left the finish line was the World Series trophy. Although I’ve lived in Boston for all of the Red Sox World Series titles since 2000, I’ve never seen the trophy in person. So that obviously warranted a photo.

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Today’s crowd on Boylston Street was not about being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but rather about being part of something that represents who we are, whether it’s Boston, running or both. The event will not be the last held on Boylston Street before next Monday. Whereas last year, Boylston Street was shut down for days following the bombings, one year later, around the same time, it will thrive.

While I was waiting for my chance for a photo with the World Series trophy, I noticed I was standing on the finish line. I kissed my finger tips and bent down to touch the painted asphalt and whispered, “For a great race.” And I have no doubt it will be.


As always, let me know what you think and what’s going on in your running community. Post comments here or email me at RunAlongBoston@gmail.com.


Photo Project Captures Runners’ Preparation Before Race Day

Posted by Chrissy Horan April 6, 2014 10:39 AM

I recently saw a photo passed around on Facebook that said, “A marathon is hundreds of miles, the finish is the last 26.2.” And while the runners can show you the logs to prove this is true, very few people see that side of the marathon.

Although she’s not running the marathon herself, photographer Lucie Wicker wanted to do something to highlight this special marathon and the months of preparation that goes into getting ready for the big day. A photographer specializing in lifestyle fitness and activewear photography, Lucie decided to create a Boston Marathon project, photographing runners around Boston throughout the winter.

“Even though it (the marathon) is run in the spring, obviously a lot of the training goes on during the worst times of the year and I wanted to highlight this (I find this particularly admirable and impressive!). To the average spectator, this might get overlooked,” Lucie emailed me. It was a tough winter to run and many of her photos capture the less than ideal running conditions we trained in.

I was really excited to learn about the project and honored to be asked to be a subject. Of course the day I met Lucie was the first 50-degree day in early March. Even though I didn't get photographed in the ice and snow, look at this amazing shot she got!

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The show features over 20 other runners. Whether intentional or not, I think the project does a great job capturing who runs Boston, from the qualified runner with 20 marathons under his belt to the marathon newbie raising money for an important cause. I haven’t met many of the other subjects yet in-person, but I’m in some pretty impressive company, from local speedsters to some runners with incredible hearts.

The project is featured on her blog and earlier in March, Boston.com highlighted the project as it was completed up to that point.

Starting Saturday, April 5, the photos are also being exhibited at sweetgreen located at 659 Boylston Street, or right at the Boston Marathon finish line.

My run Saturday led me past sweetgreen, so I stopped in with some friends to say hi to Lucie while she was hanging photos.

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The display will be up through marathon weekend. It looks phenomenal. Check it out. After all, getting to Boylston Street to look at photos of runners training is way easier than training for the marathon.

As always, let me know what you think and what’s going on in your running community. Post comments here or email me at RunAlongBoston@gmail.com.

Fighting Kids' Cancer One Step at a Time

Posted by Chrissy Horan April 2, 2014 10:22 PM

It’s funny, but you never know when the paths in your life will cross. I started working at MassGeneral Hospital for Children a few months ago doing childhood obesity research. I knew from my years running the Boston Marathon that MGH had a marathon charity team, though nothing more. Recently, a running connection introduced me over email to the program’s champion, Dr. Howard Weinstein. So I walked down to his office last week to meet him in person and learn more about the team.

Dr. Weinstein is the chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at MGHfC and the team raises money to support his department. Dr. Weinstein himself has run 24 consecutive Boston Marathons and he doesn’t sound like he has plans of stopping anytime soon. It’s hard not to root for a team that raises money to combat childhood cancer, though as it turns out, they do much more.

When the team began in 1998, its purpose was to honor the patients at MGHfC. And while the team has grown from 10 runners that first year to over 150 this year, that goal remains. Many of the runners apply to participate in the Patient Partner Program. The program takes the matching process seriously, involving a child life specialist and psychologist to help determine the pairs. Several of the runners were once patients themselves.

The runners may meet their patient matches several times throughout the season, but the highlight is the team pasta dinner that takes place marathon weekend. At the dinner, a medal ceremony is held where runners honor their patient matches by giving them a medal that is in fact made by the same jewelers that make the marathon medals.

Patients, their parents and the hospital staff can all feel part of the team thank to the mural that covers one of the hallways in the Hematology/Oncology unit at the hospital. The idea for the mural came in early 2013, and after a lot of meetings sorting through photographs and newspaper clippings, the design was developed and it was hung on the hospital walls on Columbus Day 2013.

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For patients, and the clinicians too, the mural is a brief escape from what usually takes place in the hospital unit. For the runners, the marathon is a test of endurance, like that which their patient partners exhibit every day. And that’s why on April 21st, the Mass General Marathon team will be fighting cancer one step at a time.


If you’d like to donate to the Mass General Marathon team, click here.


As always, let me know what you think and what’s going on in your running community. Post comments here or email me at RunAlongBoston@gmail.com.

About the author

     Chrissy Horan has been running around Boston and nearby neighborhoods since 2000. An athlete through high school and college, she has found the running community in Boston to More »

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