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Emily Selland is running for her stepfather who was the ‘heart and soul’ of his community

"Every time I put on my running shoes, I think of his grit, high spirits, and incredible laugh."

Emily Selland's stepfather, Paul Gruchacz, watched her run her first Boston Marathon in 2018 in the rain from Heartbreak Hill.

In our “Why I’m Running” series, Boston Marathon runners share what’s inspiring them to make the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston. If you’re running the marathon, you can share your story here.

Name: Emily Selland
Age: 24
From: Needham Heights, Needham

I am running my third Boston Marathon for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in honor of my stepfather, Paul Gruchacz, and the 55 years of life that he spent being the heart and soul of every community he joined. After reconnecting with my mom, his high school crush, Paul joined our family in 2015. But he was diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma less than two years later.

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Dana-Farber was with him every step of the way, even working to get Paul into a clinical trial and continuously reassessing his care. I run for Dana-Farber in order to support their efforts for others who are fighting cancer.

The first year I ran, Paul sat at the top of Heartbreak Hill to make sure he saw me run by, even despite the chilling cold and torrential downpour that was the 2018 Boston Marathon. Paul was my biggest supporter in everything I did and hoped to achieve. I remember he arrived at my high school graduation two hours before the rest of my family so that he could save seats for everyone in the very front row. He was that way for anyone who was lucky enough to be a part of his wonderful life.

Every time I put on my running shoes, I think of his grit, high spirits, and incredible laugh. And after each marathon, I have a Guinness in his honor. Dana-Farber performs crucial, world-renowned cancer research and state-of-the-art care for their patients. I am always honored to represent them and excited to be back in Boston next month to run from Hopkinton to Copley in support of their mission: a world without cancer.

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Editor’s note: This entry may have been lightly edited for clarity or grammar.

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