(Editor’s note: We asked locals who ran the virtual Boston Marathon over the last few weeks to tell us about their experiences. Here are some of the inspiring stories that are worth telling).
Dan Mees, of Andover
I ran my virtual Boston Marathon for kids with cancer, “One Mission.” It is a great charity that does “whatever it takes” to get kids through cancer treatment.
It was an incredible day, Mon., Sept. 7, because in the end I didn’t run the race alone. My whole neighborhood ran “Boston” with me.
First, my neighbors donated a lot of money — with some folks contributing three times — to help me beat my $15,000 fund-raising goal. Then eight neighbors, along with five other friends, ran different legs of the 26.2-mile course around Andover with me.
When I was hitting the wall after Mile 20, they saved me. They were a big help. When I wanted to fly up the mile-long hill known as Central Street, they turned on the jets for me.
We had a lot of motivation. Our young neighbor John Cooney had just lost his 2 1/2-year battle with an inoperable brain tumor. We were hurting, but we were also grateful to be able to run in his honor and for a great cause. Running the virtual Boston Marathon this year meant helping “One Mission” serve a thousand kids just like John, and something tells me we’re just getting started.
Molly Cronin, of Haverhill
I’ve lived in Haverhill my entire life. I was born at Tufts New England Medical Center nine weeks early, weighing only 2 pounds and 1.5 ounces.
In November of 2019 I applied to be a charity runner for Tufts NEMC to give back to the community that saved my life as a baby. After first being postponed, and then changed to virtual, I finally ran the Boston Marathon on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020.
I ran from Plum Island Point, to Sandy Point State Reservation and back down Plum Island Turnpike, into Downtown Newburyport, over the bridge into Salisbury, down Ferry Road, down Beach Road, and onto Salisbury Beach State Reservation.
Once I reached the end of the Reservation I got onto the beach and ran a half-mile down on the sand, finishing my 26.2 mile race in front of the Lifeguard First Aid Station, where I am a head lifeguard and have worked for the past six summers.
This was an amazing experience and I am so proud of myself for accomplishing it after training for 10 months. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of others.
I raised over $1,500 for Tufts thanks to some generous people in my life.
What also made it special was that my parents, Carlton and Patti Cronin, also of Haverhill, were present in different locations throughout my race to support me. My boyfriend, Tyler Van Etten of West Newbury, biked the entire race with me, supplying water and snacks when needed.
Lea Guldemond of West Newbury, Sarah Broderick of Haverhill and Michaela Morris of Seabrook, N.H. took turns and ran a collective of 15 miles with me for support.
Kayleigh Hudson of Amesbury put up signs along my route and took time out of her work day to see me run. Chelsey Feole and Derrick Feole of Salisbury greeted me at the finish line.
It was an experience I’ll never forget and I owe thanks to a lot of people for their support.
Thomas Arul, of Andover
On Saturday, Sept. 12, I completed the 124th Virtual Boston Marathon, raising money for Lazarus House.
What a way to experience my first marathon.
People asked, “What was your take-away from your first marathon, a virtual marathon?”
Over the last year, I doubted myself many times, especially after a COVID-19 diagnosis in June when I stopped running for two months. But with the help of a great friend who ran with me, I am glad to have finished 26.2 miles. Honestly, 42.195 kilometers sounds better.
Most important, I am exhilarated to have raised over $23,000 for Lazarus House. Many thanks for all good-hearted people who donated and the Merrimack Valley Striders for coaching.
One of the sad things we have in our community is that we don’t see the poverty. There are many who cannot afford rent, heat, food, clothes, or utilities.
The most painful part is the mother who struggles to feed her hungry children. Sadly, in Massachusetts, 616,090 people are struggling with hunger and, of them, 159,950 are children. It’s sad that one in nine children struggles with hunger. With COVID, the problems have been exacerbating inequalities in the US. There is 60 percent more demand for food pantries.
As for the race, it was a photo finish with a bagpiper playing and being cheered by my friends and family in Andover’s Central Park. There was a finish line drawn in chalk in the park. It is fading every day but the memories will be there for a lifetime.
Andrea Fogarty of Haverhill
I decided to do the virtual Boston Marathon about six weeks prior to Sept.12, 2020, the day that I actually ran it.
It was at the urging of one of my friends and running mates that I decided to do it. The year 2020 will be remembered, and she reminded me of how memorable it would be to run under these circumstances, even if it’s not the true “Boston Marathon.”
As far as training goes, I have an amazing group of friends that I run with — Tina, Tiffany, Lori and Karen. They’d run different stretches with me during training and, thankfully, on race day.
Time with them is honestly why I run. Their support is what got me through, especially Lori Robertson, who surprised me by running the entire course with me that day. She was amazing and deserves a big shout out.
The support of my fellow Haverhill police officers (she is a Haverhill Police Lieutenant) on race day was as equally inspiring. I had patrol cars offering me aid along the way and my colleagues cheering me on at the end.
The toughest part about the whole experience was choosing the course. Flat courses, unfortunately, aren’t an option in Haverhill (notice the “Hill”).
I’m really glad I did it. And thankful for my friends.
Lanshan Cao of Andover
I’ve been a resident of Andover for 20 years and a member of the wonderful running club, Merrimack Valley Striders. I started to run in 2017 and the 2020 Virtual Boston Marathon is my fourth marathon and second Boston Marathon.
Year 2020 has been a challenge for everyone and has impacted every part of our life. My training for the Boston Marathon was stopped in March as the BAA. announced it was being postponed to September, and later changed to a Virtual race.
I like the words printed in our running shirt “THE ONLY THING REAL IS THE MILES.” There would not be a millions of spectators along the road to watch and cheer us up, but the 26.2 miles are real and the Boston spirit is real.
I decided to run this marathon not for myself but for everyone I know of — my family, friends and so many people I do not know but had suffered in this year’s pandemic.
On Sept. 5, the Virtual Boston Marathon opening day, I started at 6 a.m. on Bruce Freeman Bike Trail. It was still dark and so quiet, I could hear my own breath and footsteps. My husband decided to accompany me by riding a bike with all of my supplies.
It was the first time I did not pay attention to the mileage or the pace. I saw the first sunshine from the horizon. I heard the birds chirping. Everything was so peaceful.
The last few miles were hard, but thinking of people who had suffered from the COVID gave me the energy to keep going.
When I saw the Crosspoint building in Lowell, I knew I completed the whole 26.2 miles. Even though it was not an official finish line of the official Boston Marathon, I dedicated all those miles to a good wish that we will overcome any difficulty because we are “Boston Strong.”
See you in 2021, starting line of the Boston Marathon.
Joe Guggenberger of North Andover
Boston 2020 was far from the picturesque last race as a member of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Marathon Team that I had long looked forward to, though a key leadership tenet instilled in midshipmen is adaptability. And in that spirit, I took to the streets of Washington, D.C. for the first, and hopefully last, “virtual” Boston Marathon.
As I drove into the city, I listened live to President Trump’s remarks from the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Penn. After parking along the National Mall, I started off with a lap around the monuments. I stopped by my car for some water and then decided I needed some new scenery so I ventured out to the lesser-known areas of D.C.
I headed back at around the 14-mile mark, knowing I’d need to make more frequent stops at my car during the race’s final stretch. I made my way back to the Capitol Building and gained an appreciation for why they call it Capitol Hill — it certainly gives Heartbreak Hill a run for its money.
As I began to hit “The Wall,” I reflected back to stories told on the radio just a few hours earlier — firefighters climbing 110 flights of stairs never to be seen or heard from again, or passengers onboard Flight 93 making a last-ditch effort to take on the hijackers — which provided the motivation I needed in that moment.
I crossed the finish line at 5:26:08, a far cry from the 2:56:47 time I used to qualify for the marathon. It was a different race for many reasons and one that I hope we don’t have to have again. But I’m grateful that once again, sports and technology helped bring people from around the U.S., and the world, together during this most difficult time.
I graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis with the rank of Ensign this past May. I’m still attached to the Academy as my first assignment is to get an MS in Finance at Johns Hopkins. After I finish the program in December, I will report to the Navy’s Nuclear Power School in Charleston, SC before entering the submarine force.
Running the Virtual Boston Marathon is an experience I’ll never forget.
Jeanne Caron of North Andover
I was so thankful for the opportunity to run the virtual Boston Marathon, which is my 23rd consecutive Boston Marathon.
This is an important event for me. I teach fifth grade at the Sargent School and this is a great race as a great teaching tool for me about mental toughness, conditioning and planning.
We have run Boston in torrential rain, extreme heat, the marathon bombings, the year after-stronger, and now COVID. Dave McGillivray and the BAA were so awesome to put this race together for everyone. We are so thankful and grateful that Boston was still with us this year, just in a different way.
I have a fondness for Kennebunkport, Maine which is where I headed on Saturday, Sept. 5. It was incredible and a day I’ll always remember.
Steve Cooper of North Andover
It turns out that running virtually is almost as challenging as tackling the historic race course from Hopkinton to Boston.
After 14 consecutive Bostons, I thought “How could I stop now?” and “Why not make it 15?” So I began the grueling winter training back in December and January and into February ... which means snow, ice, wind and bitter cold training runs only to find out it was all for nothing. A pandemic racing across the world postponed America’s race. I was ticked.
Then came word from the BAA “See you in September!”
And for me, the summer of 2020 became my marathon training 2.0.
Instead of wind chills of 30 below for 20 miles it was no wind and heatwave training runs instead of hitting the beach.
Fast forward to Saturday, Sept. 5. There was no trip to the starting line in Hopkinton, but a trip to my own starting line at the North Andover Common.
It was 6 a.m. No crowds. No announcers, just a three, two, one and I was off on my 26.2 mile journey to get me to the finish line, which in this case was the starting line at the North Andover Common.
The first four-mile leg I was all alone. I’m pretty sure I was half asleep. The next eight miles I was joined by my running friends from the Borderline Running Club (BRC) and then I spontaneously ran into marathon race director Dave McGillivray, who was running his virtual marathon. So I logged another seven miles with the legend himself.
I even high-fived Dave on completing his marathon and then off I went on to log my final 7.2 miles. And as delirium and exhaustion began to consume my body, I raised my hands over my head in victory, crossing my self-created finish line — the front bumper of my Ford Expedition!
No. 15 was officially in the books without the screaming crowds reverberating down Boylston Street, just a couple out for a walk at the Common. They did offer me me a congratulatory clap and went on their way, and so did I, after all my dog Sammy was anxiously waiting for her Saturday walk.
An unusual way to run Boston in 2020 but, let’s face it, everything in 2020 has been unusual and so, too, the 124th virtual running of the Boston Marathon.
Congrats to all 18,000 marathon runners and 18,000 stories being told here at home and around the world. A September to remember.