On Patriots Day, alongside more than 30,000 athletes and as part of a 130-person team for the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Fund, Lucas Fried ’17 ran the historic 26.2-mile course of the Boston Marathon for the first time, in the process raising $6,000 for the cause.
Lucas first heard about Stepping Strong during his sophomore year, when History Teacher Louise Makrauer gave a presentation in class on the Stepping Strong Innovator award, a grant for researchers interested in pursuing projects meant to transform outcomes for trauma patients.
Stepping Strong has had a special place in this community because its namesake, Gillian Reny ’13, was a student at the school when she suffered a soft tissue injury in her left leg and muscle and bone damage in her right at the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Soon after, Gillian and her family established the Stepping Strong Fund to raise money for trauma research, and in 2016, the Stepping Strong Center for Trauma and Innovation was brought to Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The center uses an online fundraising platform called Crowdrise, and each year, it supports a team running in 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, and marathons across the country. Once Lucas decided he wanted to run the marathon as part of his Senior Spring Project (SSP), he knew he wanted to involve Stepping Strong.
“I wanted to run with Stepping Strong because of the charity’s strong connection to BB&N, the Boston Marathon, and the city of Boston,” he said. “I’ve grown up watching the Boston Marathon each Patriots Day, and I love the energy and enthusiasm that comes with it.”
Lucas asked his friend and fellow student Ellie Gozigian ’17, whose mother ran the marathon on behalf of Stepping Strong this year and last, for help getting involved. Soon he was encouraging people to donate by emailing What’s Happening, contacting his family and friends, and getting to know a group of philanthropic runners that ranged in age from 18—like Lucas, the youngest of the team—to 63. All told, Stepping Strong’s 2017 Boston Marathon team raised nearly $1 million.
Lucas began training for the marathon in mid-December by running three times a week around Boston and increasing his mileage every few weeks until eventually hitting 21 miles before the race. Sometimes Lucas ran alone, and sometimes he ran with members of the team, whom he described as “an awesome group” enthusiastic about sharing their marathon and Stepping Strong experiences.
When Patriots Day came, Lucas said that both crowds and friends he didn’t expect to see on the sidelines motivated him to continue.
“I was sort of focused on my pace at first, [but] that ended at about mile 18,” Lucas said. “I just needed to finish and stop worrying about how fast I ran. There were a lot of people whom I didn’t know were going to be there, but I saw them on the side and got to wave to them and say hi, which was awesome.”
Vishnu Murale ’17 was one of those spectators, cheering at mile 20 alongside a dozen other students, including Aaron Kaufer, Jacob Licht, Menelik Epee-Bounya, Kian Golshan, Guillermo Alvarez, Ari Benkler, Andrew Siff, Matthew Siff (all ’17), and Elisa Tabor ’18.
“We were waiting at Heartbreak Hill for Lucas, and I was quite anxious to see him and how he was doing,” Vishnu said. “After around 30 minutes, my friend spotted Lucas, and we just started going bananas.”
“He emerged out of the group of runners like a salmon bursting out of an Alaskan river,” Vishnu added. “In other words, he looked good.”
In a separate spot about half a mile later, another dozen seniors—among them Mary DeVellis, Thomas Mandile, Charlotte Foote, Jeff Costello, Josiah Siegel, Lexie Massa, Charlie Ablon, Tatum Driscoll, Gary Raisin, and Ellie (all ’17)—continued to push Lucas forward.
Mary said seeing a classmate run at such a steady pace reminded her how proud she is to be part of a school of such incredible individuals. Lucas later texted his thanks for the help, she added.
Lucas expressed satisfaction at finishing the marathon even if his time of 4:10:23 was slightly above his target of coming in under four hours. The idea of walking tempted him in the last few miles of the race, he reported, but he knew if he started walking, chances were slim he’d start running again.
“The part that really wrecked me was around mile 25,” Lucas said. “There’s a tiny hill just before Hereford Street that goes through an underpass, and I gave up and started walking. Then, though, people above started shouting my name—written on my arm—and I remembered how close I was and started running again.”
When Lucas finished the race, he staggered to the Boston Sports Club, where the Stepping Strong team met for food, conversation, and free 20-minute leg massages.
Lucas discussed that at the beginning of his training, the marathon was just a personal goal. However as he became closer to the charity and the people he was running with, his mindset changed.
“Over the course of my time spent with Stepping Strong, through training and fundraising, [running the marathon] grew into something that meant more to me than just saying I ran 26 miles. It was something that I wanted to do because my teammates, friends, coach, school, family, and thousands of Bostonians along the racecourse were supporting me to accomplish it,” he said.