Boston Marathon tips from Team Scholar Athletes: Runner Interview

Cool weather is the perfect time to start thinking about your Boston Marathon training. We sat down with Manny, who ran with our 2019 team, to get the scoop on how to raise money while mastering training.

Team SA runner Manny in the 2019 Boston Marathon

What inspired you to run the Boston Marathon with Team Scholar Athletes?

I began volunteering with Scholar Athletes in the fall of 2018, and I immediately fell in love with the organization. After my first visit to the Zone at Boston Green Academy, I was deeply impressed with how impactful Scholar Athletes is for the Zone members… Running the Boston Marathon had always been on my bucket list, but I knew the only thing that would motivate me to run was to join an organization that I truly felt passionate about – so everything fell into place. Scholar Athletes provided me with the opportunity to run for an organization that I love!

How did your friends and family react when they learned you were running the Boston Marathon?

Honestly, I received a mixture of responses! I had a few “doubters” who didn’t think I could do it (I had never run more than a mile in my life – so I was honestly doubting myself at certain points too!) and I also received a tremendous amount of support. So many friends and family members had seen how much I loved my time with Scholar Athletes, so they were thrilled to hear that I had the privilege of running for the organization.

As I got further into training and I was able to share more about the Scholar Athletes mission, the support I received grew exponentially. It was amazing to see how distant friends and random family members reached out and wanted to know more about the organization and the training. The amount of support I received on race day was absolutely incredible – I couldn’t have asked for a better backing.  

What was your experience like raising money for the marathon team (Team SA is a designated Boston Marathon charity), as well as your training?

Being from the area, I was afraid that so many of my family and friends were going to be asked to donate to too many marathon teams, and not want to donate to mine. However, that fear quickly went away. So many of my supporters wanted to donate specifically to me, because they knew that the Scholar Athletes mission is so important to my life, and so many of my friends’ lives. My core values align with everything Scholar Athletes strives to provide for their high school participants.  

The training was much scarier than the fundraising, but luckily, training is truly in the hands of the runner. I had never run more than a mile in my life, and I knew that the training would push me far beyond my physical limits. Each and every week I surprised myself with how far I could run, especially towards the end. I learned so much about myself and both my mental and physical capabilities. The training changed my life for the better. 

What was your approach to fundraising, especially as a first-time charity runner?

As soon as I received my bib, I started spreading the word. If you are from the New England area, chances are many of your friends and family will be asked to support a number of runners, which I why I highly suggest starting early. There are so many unique ways to make the fundraising fun. You can have people sponsor certain miles throughout the race, donate money to put running songs on your playlist, tie fundraising into other professional sporting events, host bar events and fitness classes, etc. Get as creative as possible and share your personal story. Make your team worth more than just “another fundraiser.” Try to personalize all of your fundraising communication.

What were some highlights of being on Team SA leading up to the marathon?

The night before the race was certainly one. We had the opportunity to meet our entire team and some of the SA staff that has been supporting us throughout the process! The 2019 SA team was comprised of all different ages, physical capabilities, nationalities, and we had the one thread of Scholar Athletes tying us together – it was so special! SA hosted a delicious dinner for us, then we got to walk to the finish line on Boylston street the night before the race – it was magical to see the finish line lit up, knowing that we would be crossing it only one day later.

My other highlight is definitely getting the chance to interact with the youth that have the opportunity to participate in Scholar Athletes. They are the reason I fell in love with the organization, and they are the motivation that kept me going throughout training. It’s an unbelievable feeling to know that all the money we raised gets to support these young people. If possible, all runners should try to visit one of the SA Zones at some point; you’ll get to witness the impact your fundraising will have.

What is one tip you would give to an aspiring marathon runner?

If you have any hesitation at all, just do it! Jump into the process and go for it! You won’t regret it. It’s hard, it takes up a lot of time, but its definitely worth it. You’ll learn so much about yourself, about your city (or wherever you train), and about an incredible organization. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life. You will find a new sense of strength, pride, community and resilience throughout the entire process. I’ve grown so much through my marathon training (physically and mentally) and wouldn’t change any part of it for the world.

Also – have fun on race day! It is such a special event. Try to soak it up as much as possible – there is a magic in the air on race day – it’s just electric!

Last tip – find a friend or meet someone new who is also training and has a similar running background to you. I connected with a few other first time runners throughout training, and having them as a sounding board and support system was crucial. The running community (which I never knew existed until recently) is very generous!

Did you have a high – or a low point – point during the marathon?

My highest point (other than crossing the finish line) was stopping and spending a few minutes with friends and family spread throughout the course. It was such a great feeling to share some of those moments with the people I love most. There are so many smaller moments that have stuck with me since – there were a number of strangers on the course that helped me get through the day, and their small encouragement was so well-timed.

My lowest point was around Mile 23. I was struggling up a small hill, it was raining and the last few miles seemed forever long – I was on the verge of tears, and out of nowhere another runner found me and ran with me, cheering me on for a few minutes. Throughout the darkest times on the course, I promise you will find some type of encouragement to get you through it. It might be in the crowd, another runner, a song, a poster, etc. There is inspiration the entire time!

If you are even questioning running, just do it. It was the best experience of my life. There’s no doubt it will be hard at times, but it will change you for the better. Scholar Athletes is the perfect organization to pair with – it’s a really supportive staff, team, and community!