The Boston Marathon can be a daunting race, forcing runners to contend with New England’s volatile spring weather and the specter of Heartbreak Hill. But none of those challenges will prevent three racers with UMass Boston ties from attempting to conquer the 26.2-mile course on Monday.
They all have different reasons for running. For Steven Tashjian, in his first semester at UMass Boston as an exercise and health sciences major, the cause is personal.
Tashjian was diagnosed with leukemia at age 5. He received treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Tashjian is running on Team Dana Farber for two people he met during that time: Dr. Amy Billett, the oncologist who he says saved his life, and Chrisha Froio, a fellow patient who ultimately lost her cancer battle.
“After I left Children's to go home, her cancer got worse, and she did not make it. So this one is for her,” Tashjian said.
This is Tashjian’s second marathon, but his first time running the Boston course. He’s hoping to beat his previous marathon time of 4:43:20.
“I am excited to run the Boston Marathon and represent Team Dana Farber as they do so many amazing things that give kids the same chance I have,” Tashjian said.
Lauryn Field, a resident of Hampstead, New Hampshire, is the daughter and sister of UMass Boston graduates. She will race on behalf of GoKids Boston’s Motley Crew.
Field’s sister, Megan Suyematsu, worked with GoKids when it began in 2006, and Field is a strong supporter of the organization’s mission to promote good health and fight childhood obesity.
“Running for GoKids is my way of contributing the work both my mother and sister have done at the university, and it's a cause that both my family and I strongly believe in,” Field says. “The work that they do there is both admirable and inspirational. I'm truly honored to be a small part of such an amazing organization.”
GoKids Boston is part of the 2013 John Hancock Non-Profit Partners Marathon Program, which provides an opportunity for local charities to fundraise using the Boston Marathon as an event.
Greg Fleming, a sophomore from Harwich who transferred to UMass Boston this fall, is a member of Team Camp Shriver. Fleming, who plays tennis for the Beacons, saw a flyer for the marathon team in October and decided running Boston would be a good way to stay in shape for tennis and give back to the university.
“One thing I learned on this journey was the vital importance of getting involved with the things where you can make a difference for them, and they can make a difference for you, and this is exactly what Team Camp Shriver, along with UMass Boston, is fostering,” Fleming said.
Created by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 2006, Camp Shriver brings together children, some with developmental or intellectual disabilities, so that all children can play, learn, and interact with their peers as equals.
Fleming and 14 community members are running to provide campers with breakfast, lunch, and transportation at no cost to their families.
“The rest of the team members are individuals who have siblings or friends with a disability, parents who understand why it is so important that every child have a chance to be included, and athletes who understand how sports can lead to friendship,” said Barbara Gildea, assistant director of community programs in the Center for Social Development and Education, which oversees Camp Shriver.