Typically, these NETA Cares articles are written in third-person, an objective report of what happened at each event. But for this one, I will be writing first-hand about my once-in-a-lifetime experience inside America’s most beloved ballpark.
It has always been a dream of mine to run a full marathon. At 25-years-old with chronic back pain, that dream seemed to be slowly slipping away from me. The Boston Marathon appeared too tough – the qualification times got faster and faster each year, Heartbreak Hill was incredibly intimidating, and I didn’t know of many charity running teams to join.
I’ve been involved with NETA Cares since day one. I’ve always loved volunteering my time and participating in fun events for a good cause. In fact, over the summer, we had a team of twelve run in the BAA 10k. I ran track in high school, so I know how it feels to represent something bigger than me. But, running for my company brings it to a whole new level. I’m running for the philanthropy branch of an award-winning medical marijuana dispensary, one of the best in the country. That’s pretty cool.
So, when you get a phone call asking if you know anyone in the company who would want to run in the inaugural Fenway Park Marathon for NETA Cares, you jump up and down a bunch of times, disregard any of the tough training that lays ahead of you, and squeal, “Me!” And that’s exactly what happened. Could I have the chance to actually run a real marathon? I was one of the first people to sign up. The emails started coming in, welcoming the lucky 50 participants that have the opportunity to run in the first-ever stadium marathon.
112 days until the Fenway Park Marathon
Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon, worked endlessly to make this marathon happen. He first approached the Red Sox about this idea of having a marathon entirely inside Fenway Park about six or seven years ago. It just didn’t work, not yet. However, in the years after, Fenway hosted high school and college football games, hockey games, ski events, concerts and Spartan races. This time around, the Red Sox Foundation approved the race with the requirement that each participant to raise $5,000 for the Red Sox Foundation. Timing was tough, but it was finally settled on Friday, September 15th at 5 PM.
Training had to begin! The hardest physical thing I had done in my life before the marathon was a Spartan Beast race – 15-16 miles, 30 obstacles—in Killington, VT. That at least had obstacles to keep you occupied. A marathon is just running! And in this marathon, I was going to have to run around the warning track of Fenway Park 116 times. This was both a test of my physical and mental strength.
I called up my running partner from high school; she also ran for Virginia Tech. I knew she’d be game to train with me. Our first “long” run was 8 miles. Looking back, it makes me laugh thinking about how tough I thought that was, compared to what I can run now. Tuesday nights were mid-long runs; Saturdays were super long runs…the kind of long runs you reserve 3-4 hours for. We sweat it out through humid days and extremely hot days. There was even a day my boyfriend rode a bike beside of me during a 20-miler. Clearly I had some seriously dedicated and supportive teammates the whole time.
September 15th, 2017 – Fenway Park
The day had arrived. I had eaten well all week long preparing my body physically for what I was about to do. I had attempted to get as much sleep as possible that week, even turning down a rocking 80s 2nd anniversary party. When we first got to Fenway, everyone was waiting outside Fenway Park, things were getting very real. I separated from my boyfriend and entered the visitor locker room. MY name is labeled on locker #39, also my bib number. A goody bag awaited me, filled with a Fenway Park Marathon t-shirt, a Red Sox Foundation hat, a Big Papi photo, and much more. I was filled with pre-race jitters and excitement. And that’s when they brought out the three World Championship trophies. I just remember thinking, “Am I dreaming right now?”
4:15 PM – Locker Room, Fenway Park
Dave McGillivray gets up on a chair and goes over race logistics. My heart starts racing faster. Only 45 minutes until I’m running in the inaugural Fenway Park Marathon. Did I tape my toes enough? What about my knee?
4:40 PM – Walking onto the field, Fenway Park
We were warned that members of the media were there and we can choose to either talk to them or not. I was taking SnapChats and said, “First marathon here we go,” and the cameras turned to me. Talk about feeling like a celebrity! I walked to the finish line and was greeted by my mother, best friend, her boyfriend and my boyfriend. Snapped some pics, to the starting line I go.
5:00 PM – Gun goes off, Fenway Park
116.5 laps to go, game on! The first 30 laps seemed easy. I had plenty of water and Gatorade to fuel me. My fan base getting larger with each few laps, their cheers growing louder and louder. Even the people inside Bleacher Bar were cheering for us.
8:00 PM – Down pour, Fenway Park
All week, the weather for Friday night looked perfect. 50s and cloudy, less humidity. Of course, at 8:00 PM, it starting down pouring. That definitely slowed me down, but I wouldn’t let it stop me. When the rain finally cleared up, I looked into the crowd…all of my friends and family were holding cardboard cutouts of my face attached to popsicle sticks!
10:35 PM – Finish line
Did I mention my fan club was amazing? I had one lap to go, they were chanting, “One more lap, one more lap!” They literally fueled me during my final laps. The people at Bleacher Bar continued to shout. Even the water stop guys were rooting me on. It was so surreal. I’ve cheered on Papi during Sox Games and Bergeron during the Winter Classic. But tonight, people were cheering MY name inside Fenway Park. They said that because of how the warning track is at Fenway, that we might run more than 26.2 miles. He wasn’t lying; I clocked in 30 miles Friday night.
The whole experience was unbelievable. I truly feel honored and thankful to have run for NETA Cares and the Red Sox Foundation. This is something I will always remember, a memory I’ll always treasure. I was one of only fifty people running in the inaugural Fenway Park Marathon. And I did it! All 116.5 laps of it.
To see news coverage of this historic race:
For photos: Click here!