Mary Shertenlieb battled rain and cold to cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon. She didn’t finish last in New York.

“I wouldn’t change the Boston experience at all because I feel like everything's supposed to happen for a reason,” the cancer survivor said. “And maybe I was supposed to finish last because maybe that story inspired somebody who had also been sick.”

Mary Shertenlieb runs the 2018 New York City Marathon. Courtesy of Mary Shertenlieb

Mary Shertenlieb was nervous.

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As she set off from Staten Island on Sunday along with the thousands of others running the New York City Marathon she couldn’t get another race out of her head.

A brutally-cold and rainy April run from Hopkinton to Boston.

The 42-year-old, who endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant to fight off cancer three times in the last five years, ran the 2018 Boston Marathon, crossing the finish line after midnight after the weather conditions forced her to take a break from the 26.2-mile trek.

Her perseverance to finish Boston caught the attention of Michelob Ultra, which offered her a spot to run the 2018 New York City Marathon along with a $10,700 donation to a charity of her choosing.


At the time, Shertenlieb said she couldn’t say no to such an offer.

But heading into the New York race, the specter of her experience in Boston loomed.

She did not want to finish last again. Tenth from last would be OK, she said, but not last.

“There was definitely this voice that was like, ‘Maybe you can’t pull this off,’” she told Boston.com. “And I felt like doing New York was a way to show myself that I could do it.”

She didn’t finish last.

On Sunday she came in with an official time of 5:41:50, taking a place of 45,410 out of 52,697 overall.

“I’m just really thankful that it turned out the way it did,” Shertenlieb said.

The whole experience running the New York race was “rewarding,” she said.

“I felt such a sense of accomplishment doing that,” the mother of two said. “Especially after every single medical tent I ran past — I was just high-fiving myself, thankful that I wasn’t in there. And also just thinking there’s a lot of people who run the New York City Marathon for Fred’s Team, which is a fundraiser for cancer research for Sloan Kettering hospital there. It’s like their Dana-Farber. And I kept thinking about how thankful I was to be able to have the gift to get to exercise and run.”


Shertenlieb said she doesn’t have any plans to run Boston again any time soon, but she is looking forward to trying some other fall marathons in the future. Between her fundraising for Boston earlier this year and the donation from Michelob Ultra for the New York race, she has raised about $58,500 for Dana-Farber. 

Mary Shertenlieb with her husband, Rich, and her sons, Hank and Max.

“I wouldn’t change the Boston experience at all,” she said. “Because I feel like everything’s supposed to happen for a reason. And maybe I was supposed to finish last because maybe that story inspired somebody who had also been sick.”

Shertenlieb said she hoped that by running New York after her experience in Boston that she could show those battling cancer, as well as her children, that “you can follow your dream of picking yourself back up and trying again.”

Even if you’re in a hospital room, as she was for long stretches, you can imagine yourself outside — running a race or doing what you love to do, Shertenlieb said.

“It’s a dream you can achieve,” she said.

And if it doesn’t go as planned the first time, you can try again.


“You can finish last once, but you don’t have to finish last twice in a row,” she said.