Finding Inspiration in the Pain


As someone who loathes running, I can’t comprehend the joy runners find in the pain.

Our agency is filled with healthy, young people who head out for runs at lunch or after work and come back sweaty but smiling. My wife Renee is about to run her fifth marathon. I watch her rise early in January, February and March to run through dark, frigid, icy, slushy, snowy streets for 10, 15, 20 miles. I’m amazed and confused. What’s the appeal?

For Renee and thousands like her, the appeal – the fuel – is something bigger than themselves.

She is part of the Mass General Hospital pediatric cancer team that runs the Boston Marathon to raise money to treat and end childhood cancer. She runs for a young girl, Olivia, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor as a baby. This will be Renee’s third year running for 5-year-old Olivia, whose family has become our family.

After scooping up Olivia at mile 20 during last year’s race and giving her a big hug, Renee began the ascent up Heartbreak Hill. With that, my two oldest boys and I jumped in the car and headed to Boylston Street to watch her cross the finish line. We never made it.

As we approached the Huntington Avenue side of the Prudential building to park, we pulled over to let the blaring sirens pass us. First one police car, then a fire truck, then a stream of speeding emergency responders, some traveling on the wrong side of the street. My heart sank.

Renee was stopped 800 yards from the finish line and couldn’t understand why spectators were on the course. She was safe but the next hour was frantic as we tried to connect. The days and months that followed were hard for our city as we mourned the death of four people and the life-changing, traumatic injuries to more than 200 others.

And that tragedy is what fuels many to run this year. Runners like Renee and the head of her MGH team, Dr. Howard Weinstein. Like one of my best friends, Harry Benzan, who coached young Martin Richard in soccer and will run in his honor as part of Team MR8. They know that their aches, pains and temporary misery can’t come close to rivaling the pain of so many others. In that pain these runners find inspiration.  So can we.

Most know someone who is running Monday to help others. In this video, we hear from three of those people whose stories inspire us.

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