Adding the word fortis to the MIT motto, 40 runners of the MIT Strong team employed mind, hand, and strength on April 21 in the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. In doing so, the 40 runners raised over $150,000 for the Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund.
On the 26.2-mile route from Hopkinton to Boston, the runners, ten of whom are alumni, had plenty of inspiration.
Along the course were seven cheering stations operated by volunteer alumni and friends of MIT. On the streets of Boston one could hear chants of “MIT Strong” as resoundingly as “Boston Strong.” And from the field of over 36,000 runners, the team earned plenty of encouragement along the way.
It paid off for Maddie Hickman ’11, who earned her finisher medal after five and one-half hours of running.
“The marathon was incredible, one of the best experiences ever,” Hickman said. “The energy along the entire route was amazing, the run was wonderful, and seeing friends throughout was awesome! Thank you so much to the MIT Strong team—to the organizers for making this happen, and to all of you for being such a great community! And special thanks to [teammate] Rachel DeLucas, who told me in January that I could totally run the marathon despite never having run more than a mile before. I never would have done this otherwise.”
Brian Mulcahey ’86 overcame injury, dehydration, and a scary post-race trip to the medical tent. “If ever I experienced an example of mind over body, this race was it,” he said. “By all accounts, I probably should have dropped out by mile 20. However, this was not a year to do that—after last year’s tragedy, the crowd support, the MIT Strong cause, and my 800 miles of training. My mind wouldn’t let my body quit.”
Maggie Lloyd ’12 added: “Those red MIT Strong signs were my motivation throughout the course. They were a constant reminder of why we started this race and why we would finish it strong!” When she picked up her phone at day’s end, Lloyd had messages “from a whole variety of friends–people I’ve known since I was little and people I just met in the past few months were so kind to think of me on this day. I am honored to have made them proud, and to have worn the MIT Strong singlet that day.”
Since the attacks in Boston last year, the MIT Strong team found inspiration in the healing spirit on campus, in their colleagues and fellow students, and from each other in training. At a community rally for the team on Friday afternoon, Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart SM ’86, PhD ’88 spoke to the team’s dedication through one of the harshest winters in recent memory.
“They were undaunted by the cold, the ice, the slush, and snow, and the uncleared sidewalks,” said Barnhart. “They ran on, knowing that much greater sacrifices had been made and knowing that all of you were right behind them. They sacrificed a great deal to get here today and they did it to run for us, so that we can show the world that we are still strong, we are a team, and we will keep doing the things that define us as a community.”
Hickman, who befriended Sean Collier during MIT Outing Club adventures, presented Barnhart with an honorary team singlet at the picnic. Dan Oliver ’60 concluded the rally with a presentation of a poster he had prepared. “The marathon is not 26.2 miles long,” said Oliver, “it’s 24.8 kilosmoots.”
On Saturday evening, the MIT Alumni Association honored the team and family members at a pre-race dinner at Walker Memorial. On Monday, the team powered through rising temperatures and a crowded field, wending its way through eight cities and towns and over a million spectators. Whether it took them three hours or six hours to finish, the team’s runners made their way to Boylston St. and to a post-race reception at Ashdown House on Monday evening.
The ten alumni runners on MIT Strong were Maggie Lloyd ’12, Mike Gerhardt ’12, Gordon Wintrob ’12, Brian Mulcahey ’86, Dava Newman ’89, SM ’89, PhD ’92, Alex Slocum ’82, SM ’83, PhD ’85, Maddie Hickman ’11, Jeremy Rishel ’94, Stephen Shum ’11, and Dan Oliver ’60.
Before the rally on Friday, the MIT community hosted a ceremony of remembrance marking the one-year anniversary of the death of Officer Collier. At the ceremony, Professor J. Meejin Yoon unveiled plans for a permanent memorial honoring Collier.