Boston Marathon

10 runners who will inspire you on Marathon Monday

The Boston Marathon attracts some of the most inspiring athletes in the world.

Guide Dan Grieb leads Chris Nikic through the transition from the bike portion to the run portion of Ironman Florida on Nov. 7, 2020 in Panama City Beach, Fla. Michael Reaves/Getty Images for IRONMAN

On Monday, 20,000 runners will run from Hopkinton to Boylston Street for the 125th Boston Marathon. Every year the field of runners always includes some incredibly inspiring athletes.

Whether they’re running to fight stigmas, to raise money for important charities, or to push their physical limits, these 12 runners are ones you may want to keep an eye on come Marathon Monday.

Andrew Kaczynski

Andrew Kaczynski, a political reporter for CNN, is running Boston in honor of childhood cancer patients like his late daughter Francesca, who died last year after being diagnosed with brain cancer at six months old. Francesca was treated in Boston, and Kaczynski is running to raise funds for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to support their childhood cancer research.

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“The kindness of the people in Boston — the struggling restaurant in Fenway Park that gave us a free meal when they learned our daughter had cancer, the nurses who were by our side while Francesca died,” Kaczynski wrote on his fundraising page. “But every single day there is another child like Francesca. A child who dies. A family whose lives are shattered with their diagnosis. A devastated family learning their child’s relapsed. I am running the Boston Marathon for them.”

Kaczynski spoke with The Washington Post in June sharing a story about his daughter’s legacy and why he’s running for children who are going through similar battles.

“I’m fighting to do this because I’m still Francesca’s dad and I’m doing it to make sure that her life had meaning,” Kaczynski said.

Brooke White

Brooke White.

Brooke White is running her fifth Boston Marathon this year to raise money for Boston Children’s Hospital, where her son receives treatment for chronic medical issues. This year, however, White will run the marathon while dealing with long haul COVID-19 symptoms.

“I want to be an example for my son who deals with chronic medical issues to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to give back whenever we can, to never give [up], and to have as much fun along the way,” she said. “Now more than ever we need hope and community. This year represents all of that.”

Christopher Barr

Christopher Barr is running the Boston Marathon after surviving a mountain biking accident that left him paralyzed and unsure if he would ever run again. Barr’s fundraising will go to the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center, where he was treated.

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“I’m running to raise money for the hospital that gave me my life back and running for Spaulding’s Race for Rehab team,” he said. “Boston has always been on my radar but what better reason to run it than to run for those who can’t.”

Chris Nikic

Chris Nikic became the first person with Down Syndrome to finish an Ironman in 2020 and won the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance as part of the 2021 ESPY Awards. Nikic will run his first Boston Marathon this year. The marathon’s new delayed date means that the Special Olympics ambassador will be running the marathon during Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Erin Tapahe

Erin Tapahe, a Navajo runner, is using the race as a way to honor and raise awareness for Native Americans. Tapahe developed her love of running through her Kináadla, a Navajo coming-of-age ceremony for young women. This year’s race takes place on Indigenous Peoples Day and Tapahe plans to do a traditional jingle dress dance in Boston for all of this year’s runners and those affected by COVID-19.

“Running is a tie to my ancestors and running has always been there for me. It pushes me and helps me be aware of my body, mind, and spirit,” she told Boston.com. “The Native American communities were largely impacted by COVID-19. I stayed busy and turned to running as a way for prayer and healing.”

Kevin Barger

Kevin Barger has run a marathon in almost every state, and the District of Columbia, since running his first race in 2004. Now, before he turns 51, Barger will complete his goal of running a marathon in all 50 states with the Boston Marathon. Through running the marathon, Barger is raising funds for Boston Children’s Hospital.

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“Along the way, I further decided that I wanted to finish that goal before I turned 51. “Fifty plus one before 51,” Barger told Boston.com. “I always wanted the Boston Marathon to be the conclusion of the goal. I am so glad to finish this journey with the Boston Marathon!”

Latoya Shauntay Snell

Latoya Shauntay Snell is an ultrarunner, founder of the food and fitness blog Running Fat Chef, and a body politics activist. Since being harassed at the 2017 New York City marathon for her size, Snell has dedicated much of her work to fighting stigmas and barriers against plus-sized athletes like herself. 

Marko Cheseto

Marko Cheseto has the fastest known running time for double-leg amputee, and now he’s putting his talent on display by running Boston. In 2019, Cheseto ran a marathon in 2 hours, 37 minutes, and 23 seconds, meaning he ran the race at a six-minutes mile pace. This year will see the first-ever para-athletics division at the race. Boston is the first major marathon to offer prize money and awards for athletes with vision, lower-limb, and upper-limb impairments.

Michael Mendoza

Michael Mendoza is a U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant who will be running the Boston Marathon just 24 hours after running the Chicago Marathon. In 2017, Mendoza broke a Guinness Book of World Record by running the most 70.3 IronMan races in one year. While deployed in Iraq in 2006, Mendoza survived a grenade explosion and was awarded a Purple Heart. Through his recovery, he was supported by the Semper Fi & America’s Fund, which provides support to veterans and service members injured in combat. Mendoza is running both marathons in support of the organization. 

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“I was motivated to run my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015 with Team Semper Fi, and from there, I was invited to run the Boston Marathon,” Mendoza told Boston.com. “Being provided the opportunity and the encouragement to get into racing, especially in the company of fellow service members, has been life-changing and has gotten me on the right track.”

Shevanna Yee

Shevanna Yee running a half marathon.
Shevanna Yee. – Shevanna Yee

Shevanna Yee is running Boston for the Lingzi Foundation and in honor of her cousin Lingzi Lu, who was one of the three victims of the 2013 marathon bombings. Yee was 12 years old when she lost her cousin and is now a senior at Boston College. Since the foundation was established in 2014, Yee has been involved to continue the legacy of her cousin. Yee told Boston.com she’s running the marathon to raise money for the charities that mattered most to Lu, particularly fostering education for students who strive to study in the United States. 

“There are many students like her around the world who share the same dreams and many organizations that reflect her passions in life that all unite in the love for food, music, education, community, and culture,” she said. “I’m forever grateful to have this amazing opportunity to run and carry her light all 26.2 miles with me, and to return the love and support we received these past eight years back to the community.”

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