A blog by runners. For runners.

Training for your first marathon and fundraising: one runner's Boston story

boston marathon charity runner

I never thought I’d run a marathon. But when I decided I wanted to run a marathon, I knew it would be Boston.

I only became a runner two years ago. Two years ago, I laced up my sneaks and ran my very first road race, the Harpoon 5-Miler. I left the race with a high, the famed “runner’s high” that I had heard so much about. From there, I signed up for a half marathon, then another half and so on and so forth. After my third half, I knew I had the marathon bug. So, on a whim, I applied to be on the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team for the 2013 Boston Marathon.

No joke, I never thought they’d pick me. I mean, so many people want to run Boston. And so many people want to support Dana-Farber’s mission to find a cure for cancer. See, my marathon is a lot different than a lot of other people’s marathons. I have spent the last 17 weeks training for the Big Day, but also fundraising.

With Dana-Farber, I have a basic commitment to fundraise $4,000. I have set my personal goal, however, at $6,000. Every single dollar I raise along the way goes directly toward Dana-Farber’s innovative cancer research. Cancer has touched many facets of my life and taken people from me too soon, and I just want it to stop. My friend Dena was only 29 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it pains me to hear how cancer has been taking over her life. It’s time to find a cure. However, the extra pressure of fundraising has been, to completely honest, stressful.

It’s taken up every waking moment. It feels that for the past four months, I’ve done nothing but solicit my friends and family (and complete strangers) for donations to my run. I’ve done a lot to reach out to the people in my life. I’ve sent personalized emails to nearly every single person I know. Some have resulted in donations, some haven’t. It’s been heartbreaking when someone tells me, “Sorry, I can’t.” Or, even worse, just doesn’t respond. But I’ve had to push aside all of those feelings and keep going. I’ve worked with local exercise studios to set up charity classes, introducing my friends and family to a new and fun workout while raising money. I’ve written about it every week on my blog, asking my Internet friends if they could dig into their pockets to help me out.

And when I’m not doing all of that? I’m sending thank you notes. Because every donation I’ve received means the world to me, and I want to make sure the people who have supported me know that.

Oh yeah, and I’ve been running. Constantly, it seems like (even though I know that’s totally not the case). I’ve logged something silly like 400 miles in the past four months. I’ve taken a bunch of yoga classes, more than 20 Pure Barre classes, and drank a lot of chocolate milk. It’s been weird, training for a marathon. Every once in a while I’ll just get sick of running. I’ll throw a mini temper-tantrum, get really frustrated and seriously contemplate giving up.

But then I get out on the road. And everything feels right. I know, at the end of the day, that this marathon is attainable. I’ve trained right, gradually adding on and taking off miles on my long runs every weekend. I’ve done a 20-miler and then went on about the rest of my Saturday, running errands and having dinner out. Who runs 20 miles?! I was so amazed with myself when I found myself back at my front door. I feel like every run I’ve gone out on, even the super slow or shorter ones, have helped me get to the marathon. I’ve been tapering now, and I feel a little lost without my long runs. I’m itching to get out there on Marathon Monday. I can feel that my body wants to run the marathon. That it can do it.

Two years ago, I could barely run a mile without stopping. And with a lot of determination, I’m finally here. About to run Boston. It’s CRAZY. But if I’ve learned anything through this training experience, it’s not entirely unattainable. And while the fundraising has left me harried, and maybe has taken away from my training more than I would like to admit, I know I’m making a difference. I have faith that thanks to the many kind donations I’ve raised through my training, we’ll be able to find a cure for cancer.

Most importantly for me though, I’m excited for the marathon glory. To cross the finish line with a smile on my face and know that I did it. I am capable. I’ve done something I never thought was possible. And now I know I don’t really have much of an option anymore. If I don’t finish the race, that’s it.

So on Monday, April 15, I’ll proudly rock my Dana-Farber singlet for 26.2 miles. I will run, not super speedily, but I’ll do it. I’ll get to the finish line eventually. Maybe even under five hours! And I’ll join the ranks of the marathoners. And, hopefully, I’ll be able to give Dana-Farber $6,000 toward cancer research.

Written by Alexandria Hubbard. Alex is a twenty-something living in Boston with her fiance, Craig, and dog, Toby.