Imagine waking up in the wee hours of a cold, rainy Saturday morning in Boston and preparing yourself to go for a 21-mile training run.
That’s exactly what Abby Banholzer, Executive Assistant/Marketing Associate for BFIM, did as she prepared to run the Boston Marathon in 2016.
Having supported a friend who’d participated the year before, Abby received an email in August 2015 prompting her to apply. “It’s always been a bucket list item of mine to run the Boston Marathon, so I decided I was just going to apply,” she says.
Interested runners have a few ways to apply: by qualifying, which is extremely competitive, or by running for a charity. Each year, the Boston Athletic Association—the event organizer—sets aside a few thousand numbers for runners affiliated with one of the marathon’s official charities. Rather than qualifying, runners like Abby pledge to raise money for the charity. One extensive application later, Abby was made a part of Team Brookline, a clan named after a neighboring Boston town found along the marathon route. The 30-member team raised a whopping $240,000 for five Brookline charities, including the organization Abby ran for: The Brookline Center for Community Mental Health.
Founded over 60 years ago, The Brookline Center provides in-patient therapy and serves individuals and families going through adverse circumstances and mental health issues. About seven members of Team Brookline were part of The Brookline Center team. “Our participation means so much to them because they rely solely on donations,” Abby says. “Even though mental health services are accessible through insurance, it can still be expensive, so this is a place people can go for free. It was really cool to meet everyone that ran the organization too—it’s purely out of love and kindness that they’re there.”
People like Nancy F. Vineberg, Chief Development Officer at The Brookline Center, who speak highly of Abby and other members of her squad. “Team Brookline runners combine their commitment to mental health and their passion for running to raise funds that ensure all adults, children and families in our community can access care in times of need,” Nancy says. “Runners like Abby help us build a community where the well-being of every person matters.”
And passion was required since Team Brookline trained together as a group every Saturday morning throughout the brutal Boston winter. “I was freaking out the first time thinking of how I had to run six miles,” Abby says. “Then by the time we were running 21 miles, I thought six was a piece of cake!”
Their dedication paid off, as evidenced by the funds raised for the Brookline charities—$89,633 raised by Abby’s team specifically for The Brookline Center.
When Abby crossed the finish line, she could say she ran 27 miles at 27 years old—a coincidence at the time, but a pretty remarkable one looking back. “When you add in the time spent weaving, grabbing water and things like that, it actually ends up being about 27 miles,” Abby says. “It was pretty cool, even though that’s not the reason I did it!”
While the timing of Abby’s participation might have been by chance, she says completing the Boston Marathon became even more important to her after the 2013 bombing. “There are so many people cheering you on the entire time,” she says. “You see people come out, and they’re giving you pretzels and water, they’re offering their bathrooms—it’s crazy to see how the strength of Boston just really popped.”
That feeling of camaraderie and accomplishment just might be addictive too. Abby says she got an itch to run the marathon again while she was watching it this year. Until then, though, the Wisconsin native is having fun exploring Boston, hanging out with her friends and downhill skiing—a hobby that’s a little tricky as you’re training for a marathon and trying to avoid injuries.
One lesson she’s gleaned from her marathon training? “Team Brookline had people ranging in age from about 18 to 70,” Abby says. “Everyone has different personalities and different things that motivate them. It’s really important to find something for you that makes you happy. That’s what makes the world so beautiful—there are so many different and amazing things to care about out there.”