Heather's 2014 marathon letter

Dear family and friends,

A year ago today, tragedy struck on my favorite day of the year. After 16 years of running marathons for cancer research – 15 years at the Boston Marathon and one year at the New York City Marathon – the unthinkable happened. I can remember in such extraordinary detail that it might as well have happened yesterday. In the days and weeks that followed, I wrote what eventually became my marathon epilogue – you can read it online.

I refuse to let this day be defined by violence. To do so would diminish the extraordinary efforts by hundreds of runners on the Dana-Farber team that have raised millions of dollars for cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute over the past 25 years. We run because others cannot. We run because we have lost loved ones and friends. We run because we want to save and protect our loved ones and friends in the future.

This year, I am running for our friend, Leo Finn. Leo was one of the first people Tom and I met when we first moved to Plymouth. Manager of what would become our favorite bar, Leo was the type of person that never said no to someone in need and hosted fundraiser after fundraiser. And, in turn, he was the type of guy no one could say no to – golf tournaments, bake sales, Relay for Life, we all found ourselves either participating, volunteering or donating. In its first six years, the bar would raise more than $100,000 for a variety of charities, all under his caring watch.

Last year, Leo was diagnosed with a rare and advanced stage of bile duct cancer. With the heart of a lion, he faced the disease head-on, and the community rallied around him under the banner of “Finn to Win.”  I can’t imagine how he felt each time we saw him – surely the treatments must have been awful. But you never would have known – that strong booming voice, the warmth, the powerful personality were always there. Leo passed away on March 23 at age 48, leaving behind his amazing wife, Kim, and their three children. The youngest is only a few years older than our Mackenzie.

So, my friends, I will run in memory of this wonderful, compassionate man.

It will be different this year in so many ways. I delivered our son, Thomas James (“TJ”) eleven weeks ago and haven’t gotten much running in, so I expect to be walking a great deal. Heightened security measures mean that no one will be allowed onto the course, so my patient-partner Amber will not be able to run the last mile with me. My parents will bring our kids to Wellesley and Newton to see me run by, but not to the corner of Hereford and Boylston where I would normally pick them up and carry them to the finish line. After 16 years, I will finish alone.  But I’m counting on your support to push me through.

Please take a few minutes today to support my 17th marathon run. 100% of your tax-deductible donation funds Barr Program researchers at Dana-Farber, ensuring novel approaches in basic cancer research.

With thanks and appreciation,

PS -- As always, I will be wearing the names of your loved ones, cancer victims and survivors, on my marathon-day singlet to spur me forward. Be sure to email me so I can include them. And if you plan to be watching the race on Marathon Monday, let me know where you will be standing so that I can look for you.

Read 2013 marathon letter
Return to Marathon page

Last updated on April 15, 2014 .
Any problems, contact Heather.