Nothing will stop Jennifer Anstead from running the 2014 Boston Marathon®. The race is 26.2 miles long. During the 2013 event, she covered 26.18 of them as a member of the Mass General Marathon Team that runs to support kids with cancer. Running in her third Boston Marathon ®, the MGH cardiac surgical nurse was about a block from the finish line when two bombs exploded, just seconds apart, ending the race.
Though only 20 feet from the second blast, Jennifer was not hurt physically. Even so, the emotional toll was deep. In those first seconds of shock, she saw a blood-covered spectator run past. His fleeting image would stay with her. “There was so much confusion and smoke,” Jennifer recalls. “The police opened their arms and pushed us back. They would not let the runners go forward.”
She had no phone, no way to get in touch with her parents to let them know she was safe. They had come to cheer her on. She had passed them along the route just a few miles before the blast.
Amid the chaos, Jennifer started walking toward Kenmore Square where she was supposed to meet three friends. Two were there when she arrived. Both were crying hysterically. It wasn’t until that evening that Jennifer found out that her third friend had been standing in front of Forum, a Boylston Street restaurant, when the second bomb went off nearby. The third friend lost a leg and was taken to Mass General for treatment.
What happened in 2013 has not deterred Jennifer Anstead. “Come hell or high water,” she says, “as long as I’m able to run the Boston Marathon, I want to run and raise money to help kids with cancer.”
Finding Support Among MGH Teammates
The young woman survived but Jennifer was heartbroken for her friend who had always played the role of group organizer, from road races to ski trips.
The month after the bombing was a< blur for Jennifer. Emotionally, “I was a disaster,” she recalls. She found support in her MGH marathon teammates and kept in close touch with them through social media. That connection continues. In September, Jennifer and five of her teammates ran in a 200-mile relay race in New Hampshire in her friend’s honor.
Like the more than 5,000 people who didn’t finish last year, Jennifer is automatically allowed to run in the 2014 Boston Marathon ®. Despite all that has happened, she has every intention of doing so. Jennifer also still wants to be part of the Mass General team.
Being on the 2013 team gave her a chance to make new friends. Meanwhile, the Mass General organizers made the experience easier by taking care of logistics such as planning training runs and getting Jennifer and other MGH runners to the starting line. Most importantly, being on the team gave Jennifer an opportunity to use her passion for running to make someone else’s life easier.
“I want to be on the team forever,” she explains. “I personally am not going to find a cure for cancer, but this is something I can do.”
And what happened in 2013 has not deterred her. “Come hell or high water,” Jennifer says, “as long as I’m able to run the Boston Marathon ®, I want to run and raise money to help kids with cancer.”
The Target: $1 Million
In 2013, the Mass General Marathon Team raised more than $900,000 for the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. Our 2014 goal is $1 million, and we’re counting on your help to get us there.
So please join teammates like Jennifer Anstead to run again for Mass General. As you know, it’s a fantastic way to make training for and running the Boston Marathon ® even more meaningful. We hope to see you in April!