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A Marathon, Not a Sprint: How a Mass General Nurse Followed Her Dream

Kelsey Barry

Donor Story

A Marathon, Not a Sprint: How a Mass General Nurse Followed Her Dream

Kelsey Barry, RN, an intensive care unit nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital, finds her passions of running and nursing entwined in a meaningful way.

Aidan Parkinson
February 9, 2023

When Kelsey Barry, RN, was a child, she wanted to be a hero and make a difference. Her dream was to one day become a nurse.

However, her path was more challenging than she expected. In college she continually changed her major. She studied medical laboratory science and psychology, before eventually pursuing a marketing degree with a minor in international business. She was happy enough with that choice but knew she was settling. Her dream of becoming a nurse, however, never waned. Instead, it only grew stronger.

A National Tragedy Becomes Personal Turning Point

For Kelsey — a Watertown, Mass. resident — running, including marathons and other road races, has always been in her blood. In college, she ran her first half marathon and quickly realized she wanted to work towards conquering the Boston Marathon®, a feat she accomplished in 2011.

On April 15, 2013, the 24-year-old was running her second Boston Marathon, rounding the corner onto Boylston Street when the first bomb detonated at the finish line. She was mere minutes away, but had no sense of what was unfolding ahead. As she came closer, she saw police frantically blocking the streets with metal guardrails, and shocked bystanders running away screaming and crying — some even bleeding.

Immediately, Kelsey’s instinct was to help. She wanted to step in and do something for those in need of assistance, but when she attempted to breach the guardrails, police stopped her, saying it was too dangerous.

“When it became clear that people had been injured, and the race was abruptly stopped, I wanted so badly to be able to help,” says Kelsey. “Even though I couldn’t help in that moment, reflecting on this horrific situation reminded me that deep down, I was a caregiver, and I needed to revisit my dream of becoming a nurse.”

Back on The Path

Following the tragedy, Kelsey continued to listen to her inner voice. “I began to wonder what would happen if I applied to nursing school now, being a little older and wiser and ready to focus on making my dream a reality,” she says.

She started to put the wheels back in motion, and her dream of attending nursing school finally came true in 2014. Since graduating, she has worked in multiple trauma intensive care units (ICUs) throughout Boston and on the West Coast, eventually finding her way back to Boston, where she currently works in an ICU at Massachusetts General Hospital.

A Meaningful Milestone

This year as Kelsey was searching for Boston Marathon charities to join, she came across the Mass General Emergency Response team — which was founded after the 2013 bombings. Marathon funds raised help provide critical funding for the training and resources needed to develop a carefully integrated action plan if a disaster were to occur again.

Kelsey realized her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse.

This year will also be the tenth anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings — therefore Kelsey knew this was a perfect team to be a part of while she prepares to complete her sixth Boston Marathon.

On Monday, April 17, Kelsey will lace up her shoes once again with her family and friends on the sidelines, cheering her on. “Yes, I train hard, but honestly, it’s this sense of community that gets me through the race” she says.

“In a way, the last decade has shown me that I was born to be both a nurse and a marathon runner. I do both naturally. I am meant to be on my feet, busy and moving at speed. This is the greatest race to be a part of, and I am humbled and honored to be running again this year not only representing the hospital I currently work at, but running for a team that represents why I chose to become a nurse.”

To support Kelsey’s fundraising efforts, click here.

To learn more about Mass General’s marathon team, click here.

John Hancock-Mass General Boston Marathon® Partnership

Mass General is proud to be an official Partner of John Hancock in the Marathon Non-Profit Program. The Non-Profit Program provides more than 1,000 Boston Marathon® bibs to select non-profit organizations throughout the community, giving an opportunity to all to raise significant funds to advance their missions.

For 26 years, John Hancock has been our steadfast partner in the Marathon Non-Profit Program and with their support, we have raised more than $22 million for Mass General. We are deeply humbled and profoundly grateful for their longstanding dedication to our mission. Their trust in us helped us reach this pivotal moment in medicine, a moment that allows us now to reimagine the future of health care for all people, both locally and around the globe. Learn more about our John Hancock-Mass General Boston Marathon partnership that continues to provide significant support for our three signature causes: Pediatric Cancer, Emergency Medicine and Home Base.