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Lifelong Athlete to Run Boston Marathon to Make a Difference

Donor Story

Lifelong Athlete to Run Boston Marathon to Make a Difference

Amy Lawson is running the Boston Marathon as a fundraiser for Mass General Emergency Medicine, motivated by her experience at the Boston Marathon bombing and a recent mass shooting in her local Maine community.

Marie Walton
February 6, 2024

Amy Lawson has been an athlete her whole life. She’s run more than a dozen marathons, raced in an Ironman triathlon, completed a competitive mountain biking race and owns and operates Kennebec Valley Coaching, an athletic endurance training center in Augusta, Maine. Amy spent many years and ran many marathons working toward a Boston Marathon® qualifying finish time — a very difficult feat that few competitive runners accomplish — only to come just seconds short at each attempt. She finally retired her marathoning sneakers in 2015.

But this year, she’s returning to marathons to run Boston for the first time, not as a competitive athlete, but as a fundraiser for Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Emergency Medicine.

Witnessing the Importance of Emergency Medicine

In 2013, Amy and her son, James, were at the finish line of the Boston Marathon watching a close friend run when the Boston Marathon bombings occurred. She remembers running to the corner of a nearby building, placing her son against the wall and shielding him with her body. “Since then, I avoided Boston and have only been back to the city once, which I’ve learned is an acute stress reaction,” says Amy. “I also avoided races for a while because it was too scary to be in a crowd of runners. I remember jogging down to the starting line of my local Fourth of July 5k that year, spotting the runners, and jogging straight back home.”

At the Boston Marathon bombings, Amy saw firsthand the critical role played by first responders and emergency medical care providers. But, more recently, she was reminded of their courage, selflessness and service to others when her community in Maine was shaken by a horrific mass shooting, during which 18 people were killed at a bowling alley and restaurant in nearby Lewiston. “It’s often said that ‘Maine is a small town,’ and that’s never felt truer than in the midst of this unimaginable tragedy,” she says. “I was within one degree of separation to almost all of the victims, and even the shooter.”

The whole region was forced to shelter in place while the shooter was still at large, and Amy remembers hearing helicopters overheard for two days while the search dragged on. “I’m so happy to be running for Mass General Emergency Response. Mass General’s training and research in this area directly contributed to saving the lives of 13 of my neighbors in October who were shot but survived.”

When she runs the marathon on April 15, 2024, it will be only the second time Amy has returned to Boston since the day of the 2013 bombing. She hopes to create a new memory this time, to “heal her relationship with Boston.”

Running to Make a Difference

Amy is training and fundraising in advance of race day in April. But training is not easy. “I’m not as fast as I used to be,” she says. She shares that her long runs take longer, and that she’s struggling with winter running more than she ever has.

“But I think about the families of the victims of the mass shooting all the time,” she says. “I try to run an extra mile when I feel my very worst, as an act of solidarity — a challenging winter run is nothing compared to their grief.”

To date, Amy has raised almost $10,000 to support Mass General Emergency Medicine as her community has rallied around her. She believes the overwhelming support from her community comes from a place of “just not knowing what to do” in the face of this collective trauma. “Everyone’s stunned, and there’s no instruction book on how to handle something like this,” she says. “I think folks are grateful for the chance to contribute to something positive.”

“I have come to realize how important emergency medicine is because terrible, shocking things can happen to any of us at any time. It easily could have been my family at the bowling alley that night instead of my neighbors,” Amy says. “Truly, running this marathon is a life goal, and it’s even more meaningful than I could have imagined. I’m thrilled to be able to run this iconic race, and I’m even more excited to raise funds for Mass General — this is one of the most important accomplishments of my life.”

If you would like to support Amy, please visit her fundraising page.

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