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2020 Boston Marathon Runners Tell Their Story

Numerous authors  | Published on 9/27/2020


Tom Dolan:

 Overall this was a crazy experience for me. 


Basically we had 9 months of continuous training as dates and plans moved - so I've never been fitter.


It was great that the marathon went virtual - just to keep the tradition alive (there is always a Boston Marathon!)


In terms of my race, I ran it solo in a quiet industrial park loop, as I did not want to be dealing with 2-way traffic and crowds. But I did think it was wonderful that MVS managed to organize a supported-run for our members as an option.


So it was a weird year, but I got a PR so all's well that ends well



Lanshan Cao:


Year 2020 is challenge year for everyone and had impacted every part of our life. My training for Boston marathon was stopped at March as BAA announced the Boston Marathon postponed to September and later changed to Virtual race.

Like the word printed in our running shirt “THE ONLY THING REAL IS THE MILES”. There will not be a millions of spectators along the road to watch and cheer us up, but the 26.2 miles are real and Boston spirit are real. 

I decided to run this marathon not for myself but for everyone I know of, my family, friends and so many people I do not know but had been suffered in this year’s pandemic. On September 5th, the Virtual Boston Marathon opening day, I started at 6:00am in Bruce Freeman Bike Trail. It was so quiet and I can hear my own breathe and footsteps. My husband decided to ride the bike with all my supplies to accompany me. It was the first time I did not pay attention to the mileage and pace, but I saw the first sun shine from the horizon, I heard the bird chirping. Everything was so peaceful. The last few miles were hard but thinking of people who had been suffered from the COVID gave me the energy to keep going. When I saw the Crosspoint building in Lowell, I know I have completed whole 26.2 miles, even it was not in the finish line of official Boston Marathon but I dedicated all those miles to a good wish and we will overcome any difficulty. 




Norma Defusco-King:


Boston 2020 was lining up to be epic for me. It was my third Boston Marathon but my first BQ. I had aged up and  had run my best time to date to qualify for this Boston. Everything was looking great.  I even signed up for the BAA medley so that I would have all four medals. It was going to be a year to remember. Needless to say things changed.  Two training cycles later I'm happy to report that I completed my third Boston Marathon.  Not the way that I had planned but done still the same. I can't say that I tried very hard during this training. My mantra was the miles not my time  were important here. The training was tough only because it was long and disjointed. Sharing miles with friends help with that.  The day of my race was  perfect! Probably the most perfect weather I have ever had for a marathon. As were our support team of MVSers. They cheered louder and worked harder then I have ever witnessed. After over 5 months of wondering if doing this race virtually was a good call. I have to give a resounding YES! This Boston Marathon experience was so much more. This Boston was more than the miles. It was about friendships, camaraderie, mental toughness, and positivity.  Thank you Boston!  You did not disappoint.


Maura Szenday:

What did I do differently for training, other than training for 9 months:

  • I had initially been using the BAA Level 1 plan for training, modifying it as needed/appropriate..  When Boston was postponed I took a couple of cutback weeks and then started running the streets in my town.

  • Mid May I won a free month with a running coach so we put together an initial months of training for Boston.  Since this was such a crazy year, I decided to keep working with this coach until I actually ran a marathon this fall.  So what I did differently:

    • I ran all my workouts as scheduled.  Nothing got moved for travel (what’s that?), races (what are they?) or weather

    • I ran more mileage than I’ve ever run before leading up to a marathon.

    • I didn’t get injured.

    • I wish I could say I nailed all the workouts – I definitely did not – but I learned something from each one

    • While not intentional, I ran a ton of solo miles (sad because I love the social aspect of running)

    • And I had a plan going into the actual ‘run’ – keep it easy and then pick up at the end

  • While I missed the excitement of the ‘real’ Boston, I loved how we set up our MVS virtual Boston.  I was able to see everyone running the course and stopped at the water stops to say hi, grab a water, take pictures etc.  It was so much fun.

  • It ended up being my 3rd best marathon time – and my strongest marathon finish


Looking forward to running a live marathon soon.  And spending more time with my fellow MVS runners.


Wendy Madden:

My first marathon.  FINALLY!  I had this “bucket list” item unchecked on my list for many decades. As “life happens”, I didn’t get back to running until 2013.

Fast forward to 2020.  I’m one of the fortunate ones to receive a bib for the Boston Marathon from MVS.  So exciting!  So scary!  But, I had done my homework to get to the point where I felt confident that if I put my name in for a Bib number, that I’d be able to follow through and finish.

Training phase I (not that I knew at the time that there’d be TWO training phases!!)   I readied for my 18 miler and was met with a world resounding HALT.  A pandemic.  Seriously?!  Although I knew that my running dreams were not the most important thing at that moment, the emotions inside were like fireworks gone awry!  A few (ok, many) deep breaths later and an awesome “medal” from Liz Macgiver, I regrouped, tapered, and set myself up to train again for September.

This time my training went from being mostly solo runs to running my entire training cycle with Mike.  I guess Quarantine had some positives!  We ran all our tempos and long runs together.  He had to slow down for me and I sped up a little because of him.  I kept my running log and pushed forward towards September, always with Mike at my side (or a little ahead of me; especially hills!).  Knowing he wasn’t going to actually be running a marathon, he ran ALL the long runs with me.  

After the BAA announced the cancellation of the “live” race and the option of the Virtual, I was IN.  NO MATTER WHAT!  At this point, I had dealt with the disappointment of all that BOSTON is; the history, the crowds, the cheering, the unpredictable weather, the support and fun of the MVS team, the bus, the after party, etc.  For me, this marathon was still a marathon.  I trained.  I did the homework.  It’s MY marathon.  I set a goal and I was going to achieve it.

September 12, 2020.  The great Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Marathon will live in infamy as my 

FIRST marathon.  It was a beautiful day!  The weather was perfect.  My MVS teammates were running and volunteering.  Mike met me at every intersection to cheer me on and take pictures.  Colin did bike support, chatting and encouraging as I went.  Pompoms waved, signs inspired, friends and strangers alike cheered along the trail.   Suddenly I hit 20 miles.  I shouted that this was the farthest I had ever gone!  Each step here-on-in would be a record.  I passed the last aid stations on the way down the trail.  I started repeating my mantras.  I told myself how hard I had trained for this last 10k.  I was patient for 20, now the work was being done.  I had a jacket waiting for me at the finish.  But, I had A LOT more than that.  I had friends and family waiting, knowing this mattered to me.  I had months of training into this marathon but a lifetime of love and support.

Virtual?  No, it was real. 

Colleen Sousa:

I ran my marathon at the beach.  I had decided to go there for several reasons. 1. It's mostly flat and a pretty easy route of out and back.

2. I really wanted to do it during the week with less traffic

3. I had my heart set on doing it on 9/11 for obvious reasons. 

4. My granddaughter was due the week before so I had hoped to go up and see her following the run for the weekend.

 I had planned to start at 7am but got the call in the middle of the night that my daughter in law was in labor and just as I was about to start I got the call that the baby was born! It was definitely a little extra pep in my step.

I started out running 3.1(and back)  miles towards Salisbury beach with Carolann Hynes to get the initial 6.2 out of the way all while face timing with my son to see the new baby and making phone calls to share the news with my family.  Not an easy task to do. LOL

Once that was done I started the 10 mile journey towards Rye for an out and back with a small hill to climb at N. Hampton.  A few friends both MVS (Donna Phannauf, Christine Decubeluis)  and home friends either biked along the route for support or drove along the route to offer water and fuel.  With no time pressure involved for me I enjoyed the view along the coast, stopped to walk, chat and take pictures when I wanted to.  The view was amazing.  My finish line was at the entrance to the state park in Hampton and both friends from home and from work met me there with a make shift finish line of blue and yellow crape paper and a printed out finish line from the files the BAA had sent us.  The finish line did not disappoint with the cheering and hugs from my friends as well as strangers walking by.  I did have to run an additional 1/10 of a mile to get the official mileage of 26.2.  Celebrated with wine and food afterwards and the recovery was easy with no hills and no real speed to speak off. Proud of the accomplishment of finishing especially with no real fan fare and especially happy that it is done.  The on-again off-again training has been long for 9 months


Billy Hafferty:

I ran with some friends from Breakaway and forgot how fast time goes by running with good friends. I had mostly been training by myself this year so the company was so welcomed and very much needed. The whole marathon flew by faster than I realized and I was just so grateful for the good company and bad jokes.


Sharon Johnson:

My training focus over the summer is usually on triathlon training, not running specific.    Having Boston Virtual on the plan turned out to be a big bonus. It provided lots of motivation to include long runs.  Once again, it turned out that it was the camaraderie of like-minded training friends, very eventful training runs, “old-man” street crossings, and  great post-run brunches that  made the event such an unforgettable experience.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.


Jocelyn Cascio:

So grateful to be able to make the best of difficult circumstances and be reminded that even without “normal” races for a while, we are still so lucky to have running and all of the goodness that comes with it.  Thanks to our amazing volunteers who made it special.


Josh Giles:

Running with Marcie and Liz was wonderful, but having to serve as Race Director was not fun ;)


Liz MacIver:

I was lucky enough to get to run in N. Andover with Marcie, Josh, Erica, and Margi and it was the most special marathon I’ve ever run. The best part was all our amazing volunteers, who treated us the whole way, and seeing my grandparents, mom, and Dustin & kids at mile 20. MVS-Thanks for the experience, I’ll never forget it! 


Jenn Curro:

Honestly, I had low expectations for this marathon and didn’t train like I normally train and wasn’t excited about the virtual marathon.  My highest long run was 16 miles, not my typical 2 20 milers, and I didn’t do any speed work.  I ran whatever long mileage Norma and Louise were running and the week they did 20, I didn’t join them and ran less.

The experience on “race day” was much more pleasant than I anticipated. Volunteers cheering us on, random people on trail also cheering us on.  Louise, Norma, and I stayed together for ~24-25 miles, waiting for each other at water and potty stops.  Fred jumped in with us at 16, and he ran last 10 with me.  With just under 2 miles left to go, we saw Adrienne, and she ran to end with us. It was great finishing with Fred and Adrienne, something you don’t get to experience in a real race.  It wasn’t my worst, wasn’t by best, but was  a fun marathon.

Tom Kinneman:

After really crushing two marathons last fall, I was especially excited to train for Boston in the Spring.  Alas, we had to postpone and reset for September.  And then came the change to a virtual race just as I was ramping the miles up again…I know a lot of people decided that it was not a “real” race, but I decided I would still take it seriously.  Lots of long runs with other MVSers but most of the track workouts and tempo runs on my own.

 We had already planned to be on vacation the week of the marathon, so I picked a dead flat course on Long Beach Island in NJ, and watched the weather and wind forecast for the whole week.  Ultimately, I picked a relatively cool day and started at just after 6 am to avoid the heat. With the support of my wife Karen and son Greg feeding me and watering me every four miles, I ran the loneliest marathon of my life.  I even forgot my earbuds, so it was just me and the sound of my shoes on the pavement.  I guess the lack of distractions was not really a problem as I ran an 11 year PR, 3:12:50.  Maybe I just wanted to get it over with…

 I know there are no awards this year, but posting the second fastest time in my age group was still pretty special.  Hopefully, that bodes well for next year when we get back to racing in real life.

Robin Condon:

Four weeks away from the Boston Virtual Marathon, and 5 miles into my 7-mile Falmouth virtual race, I developed a severe strain in my right calf muscle. Unable to run for a couple weeks I finally decided to give it a shot and I was able to slowly run 4 miles.  Then came Labor Day weekend, less than a week away from the BVM.   At about 9:30am on Labor Day morning I thought to myself "I am not going to be anymore trained in 5 days than I am now," and off I went.  It was a long 26.2 miles with A LOT of Robin time. Luckily, Delaney joined me for 3 miles and my sister for 5.

I would like to thank John Jannetti and Sal Ferreira who allowed me to train by their side.  If you are ever looking for someone to talk you through your run, these are your guys! Never a dull moment!

Also, I am especially grateful for MVS and the BAA for giving me this opportunity. Maybe someday I'll run the Boston Marathon route on Patriots Day, but for now I'll always reflect back on all the training miles I put into this race. After all, that was what was REAL about this marathon! I am glad to have had this experience and will proudly wear the Boston Marathon 2020 jacket.


Shane Smith:

My first marathon experience is definitely something I will not forget.  Who runs their first EVER marathon virtual? I was really excited to be given the opportunity to run as a support runner for my friend Andy.  Throughout most of the summer Andy, my wife Amanda and I spent numerous hours training together in the hot sun.  I kept do people do this? When it was race day I was hoping to get Andy to his second guide around two hours and just hang on for the rest.  Not only did I hang on, but I exceeded my expectations and goal of 4:30:00 and ran a 4:09:38.  Having family and MVS support was great.  Shout out to Joe Cosgrove - I'll take those swedish fish now.  


Amanda Smith:

Like many, I was ready to run my first EVER Boston Marathon and was completely heartbroken for most of 2020.  When I was accepted I cried, when it was postponed I cried and when it was made virtual I cried. Through most of 2020 I was battling an unknown injury and in July after months of PT, x-rays and an MRI I found out I have tendonitis in both hips and a small hamstring tear.  As much as I wanted to hang up my running shoes for a while, I was determined to finish the virtual event.  When MVS decided on the BFRT I couldn't have been more excited.  I knew the support of MVS and my family would help me to finish the run. I had two goals and am happy to have accomplished both. (1) Don't bomb it at the start and (2) PR.

Although it wasn't the Boston I have been dreaming of since I was a child the love and support around me was what I needed to finish strong.  I'm still looking forward to the "real" Boston like many and know it's in my future.


Lisa Maciel:


My “virtual” experience, or was it? ;) 


Up until 2 months before the planned MVS Virtual Marathon, all was a go…UNTIL I found a LIVE marathon actually happening.  I found out about the Chicagoland Last Chance BQ.2 in Geneva, IL happening on Sept. 12, the same day as the MVS virtual.  I figured if it doesn’t happen, I already have a back up.  Well, sadly it did cancel on Aug. 8th.  However, I found yet another LIVE marathon happening the same day in Grand Rapids, MI, the sister race to the one in IL and a Boston Qualifier!  Again, my plan was to run this LIVE race and if it cancels, I’d run the MVS Virtual as a back up.  As the weeks, and finally days, got closer, the excitement was building that they could actually pull the race off.  


The course consisted of 6 loops with a couple “rollers” about halfway into the loop.  I was grateful to see it on our shake out run the day before. However, while the rest of the course was flat, those hills seems like mountains by the 3rd time you ran the loop, lol.  I also didn’t do a great job of running the tangents as my watch read 26.4 so that is definitely one disadvantage of not doing a virtual on your own when you can stop at 26.2, lol.  Nope, no in a REAL race, you need to run until you cross that finish line. 


The race organizers pulled off a safe and great event!! This race usually has about 350 runners but they capped it and and even removed all the pacers (bummer as this race is know to have great pacers).  We were all staggered every 5 seconds starting at 7am, wearing masks as you crossed the start.   


It was so nice to finally race again with 250 or so other runners and for 3hrs and 38 minutes forget what the world has been going through over the last several months.    Despite some a knee issue during most of my training that couldn’t be taken care of during Covid (and still can’t), I was thrilled to be able to run my 3rd fastest marathon out of 24, place 3rd in my age group, and BQ by almost 17 minutes.  No, it wasn’t “the” Boston Marathon we all envisioned running and I still struggle to say I ran my 13th Boston Marathon because I didn’t run it on the actual course.


I’m certainly very grateful to be a part of this “special” Boston Marathon experience.  We don’t know what the future of large marathons/races will be but I’m sure we can all agree  that we all can’t wait to get back out there together!


Marcie DiLorenzo:

2020 is the year that would not relent despite the harsh circumstances that were dealt to our world, runners proved we wouldn’t back down.  On an ideal running day, on an “almost fall” in New England, five friends set out to run the Boston North Andover.  It will surely go down as the most memorable marathon.  I felt completely supported every step of the way.  I will never be able to show just how grateful I am, that in this time of lemons, so many people showed up to make lemonade!  Congratulations to the Boston Marathon Graduating Class of 2020!



Margi Johnston: 

Virtual Boston turned out to be such a fantastic day!! I’m still struggling to put my experience and all the emotions into words that make sense. I was so happy to have shared the day with Erica, Marcie, Liz, Josh and the amazing support crew we had! Thank you MVS!!



Louise Cummings:

We were so lucky to have a gorgeous day on September 12.  What I will remember most about the virtual Boston is the generosity of the volunteers who supported the race all day!  Thank you all so much for being there to make the day easier and definitely more special!  I also had fun training with Norma DeFusco-King, Jenn Curro, Adrienne Keene and Diane Jannetti (and Andy of course!) It was my 8th Boston and 23rd marathon.  I truly feel for the runners who were running Boston for the first time.  I hope you all keep trying to run the real thing.  I'm wondering what the future holds for Boston, and if my qualifying time will allow me to run the "real" race one more time!  Oh, and Thank You to Shane Smith and Sean Leighton for supporting Andy through the race.  You did awesome!



Three Dozen in the Bag- Tom Licciardello

“Hey Tom, I’m running the Virtual Boston Marathon at a gentle pace.  Would you be willing to run a few miles with me? I’m just going to do loops around the common until I hit 26.2 miles”, asked Bernie Zelitch, my neighbor, experienced marathoner, and long -time running bud. 

“Sure, if you’re planning a slow pace, I could do 5 or so with you”. Getting the chance to run a few miles with another runner is a rare treat during this time of social distancing and five miles was certainly doable. 

Well, one thing led to another…. maybe I could stretch my run to 10 miles.  After all, I was running 5-6 miles almost daily, so I did a 10-mile training run. Cool.  Then I thought, I’ll bet I could stretch it to a half marathon, so I ran a 13.1-mile training run. Wow. Then we decided to abandon running loops around the common and join our running club friends on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail course with 11.7 miles out and back. I worried that perhaps I hadn’t put in enough training miles to keep up with Bernie in a longer effort and decided I should try a longer run. So, I did an 18-mile training run. Stunning.

Then the BAA offered Organizing Committee members the option to officially enter. Should I?

Maybe, just maybe.  Could I be so bold as to think I could run another marathon? To test this crazy thought, I ran a 20-mile training run. Crazy. At that point I was mentally committed, but not sure I’d even come close to running enough training miles. So, I did one more 10-mile run. Crazier. That should do it, right?  All those marathon training runs were done in ten days. Craziest.  That makes sense, right?

No, it really doesn’t, especially given my history. Sure, I’d run 35 consecutive Boston’s and 88 marathons overall, but my last marathon was in 2011.

A bad right knee sidelined me while training in 2012 and forced me to make the difficult decision to end my Boston Marathon journey.  Three years later, sextuple by-pass surgery pretty much sealed the deal.  But in May 2019, I had a total replacement of the pesky right knee.  Heart fixed - check. Knee fixed - check. So, why not run a marathon again?

I’ve often said that running a marathon has two basic requirements – no physical impairments, plus the desire to do it.  A repaired heart and reworked knee didn’t convince me that a marathon would ever be on my agenda again. That is until Bernie asked, “Would you be willing to run a few miles with me?”

On September 12th, nearly 9 ½ years after my previous marathon, I pinned on my Boston number and met Bernie at the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail for our 6:30 AM start. You would probably guess that with the marathon experience both Bernie and I have that there would be no surprises. We’d certainly experienced all the highs and lows of 26.2 miles so many times before.  We anticipated the excitement of the first 10 miles when enthusiasm and optimism runs high.  We recognized that from 10 to 20 miles the task would grow more serious and grimmer. We fretted about the last 10k when the agony of too many miles on less-than-prepared legs would begin to make us wonder why we were subjecting ourselves to this torture again. 

There was no gun firing to start our race, nor masses of cheering spectators. So off we quietly went. Our slow and leisurely pace did, indeed, make the first 10 miles as we expected.  We were enthused and optimistic. But this time the smiles never disappeared. Bernie, normally a quiet guy, and I, the never quite guy, chatted mile after mile.  We regaled each other with tales of past races, family memories, a bit of politics (those were the fastest miles), and deep philosophical discussions that solved most of the world’s problems. Our pace seemed irrelevant and the miles ticked by with surprising ease. No serious or grim miles. No miles of agony. We smiled, laughed, and enjoyed each other’s company for 42 kilometers.

Though we both ran a “personal worst” time, we agreed that, in many ways, it was a “personal best” race.  Smiles from start to finish attest to the fun we had. I didn’t even complain or hesitate after we broke the finish tape so kindly arranged by our running club family when Bernie said, “We have to keep going.  We’ve only run 26.1 miles”. Number 36 in the bag.

Many years ago, I read an article in Runner’s World by Joe Henderson who was at that time “pretty old” by my standard back then…. maybe 50. In the article he said that if we are fortunate enough to run long enough, we will go through three phases of running.  The first is when we start. We all probably start for health reasons – maybe to lose some weight or maybe it was a coach trying to get us in shape for “the real sport”.  Then we pin on a number and we become “racers”. Sure, we may still be interested in those health benefits, but now it’s all about getting PR’s, placing in our age group, or beating that running buddy with whom we train.  But if you run long enough, he said, and if you’re really fortunate, you’ll attain the third level – you’ll become a “Runner”.  Health is still a reason to run, being competitive is a natural instinct, but now it’s all about the joy of the run.

On September 12, 2020, I’m pretty sure that Bernie and I hit level three.