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Kristina O’Neil ’17 Runs the Boston Marathon

Kristina and friend Jenny Scarborough, photo credit: Jackie Shainia

Kristina and friend Jenny Scarborough, photo credit: Jackie Shainia


It has been said that marathon running can be addictive. Sophomore Kristina O’Neil would find out if this saying holds any truth.

A biology major from Holyoke, Massachusetts, O’Neil decided to run her first marathon around this time last year. Until April 20, O’Neil had only run half marathons and shorter, often with her brother.

“It’s not like, something we do together, but…I guess something we do together…I was like, by the time I finish my undergrad we’re gonna run a marathon, and he was like uuuuhhhmmm, and I was like no, we are”.

Running was something she started off doing during sports seasons, but upon reaching college, O’Neil decided she needed something to keep in shape.

It began with just a few miles every day. O’Neil describes herself as a very goal oriented person, and that reflected in her running. She began to set goals for herself to meet. Running was something she fell into, never expecting to enjoy it as much as she does. O’Neil needed a new goal, and decided on the Boston Marathon in 2015.

O’Neil knew she would not be able to qualify for the marathon, which requires runner to finish in 3-4 hours, depending on the age group. The elite runners usually finish at around two hours. In 2015, Lelisa Desisa from Ethiopia ran 2:09:17 coming in first for the men’s elite. Caroline Rotich of Kenya ran 2:24:55 coming in first for the women’s elite. For the wheelchair race, Marcel E. Hug of Switzerland finished in 1:29:53 coming in first for the men, and Tatyana McFadden of Maryland finished in 1:52:54 coming in first. In the handcycles race, Tom Davis of New York came in first for the men with 1:17:49, and Francesca Porcellato came in first for the women with 1:34:12.

O’Neil decided instead to apply to run for a charity. She applied to as many as she could, and Brigham & Women’s was the first to accept her. Brigham & Women’s was also responsible for providing a lot of cancer research to O’Neil’s family when her grandfather was diagnosed. After his death at the end of the summer of 2014, O’Neil was further inspired to run for a charity.

As part of running with a charity, O’Neil was required to fundraise for the marathon. Typically, the minimum is $5,000 per runner, but with a large hospital like Brigham & Women’s, O’Neil says they wanted their runners to go above and beyond. She set her goal at $9,250, and has currently raised 82 percent of her goal. Click here to donate.

A part of running with an charity like Brigham & Women meant that O’Neil had access to a trainer who helped her get in shape for the marathon. Every Saturday starting in December the runners would meet and run out of the city. They began with short six mile runs, and added two miles every week. After reaching 12 miles, they would drop back down to 10 miles every other week until stopping at 21 miles, the longest run they would do.

O’Neil herself only ran three or four days out of the week. Sundays were her recovery day, Mondays and Wednesdays were spent in the gym doing weight training and the elliptical for recovery.

Though training in the winter was difficult, O’Neil knew it would prepare her for whatever weather could happen on race day. This year, it was cold and rainy.

At 12:13PM: Athlete Alert. Kristina O’Neil @ 10km. Time 0:57:23, Pace 9:14

“We had such beautiful weather the past week so I was very bummed out when it was raining all morning. But I made the best of a situation that was out of my control. There was no use crying over a little rain when I’ve worked so hard for 6 months” O’Neil said.

After a few miles, O’Neil didn’t even notice the weather. She credits the crowds lining the streets for her distraction.

“Everyone is cheering for you like they’ve known you forever. They want the runners to do well and enjoy their special day” O’Neil said.

O’Neil did not struggle with running the marathon until she reached “Heartbreak Hill” about 20 miles in. She saw two friends there who motivated her to keep going. By mile 23, O’Neil just wanted the race to be over.

“Once I entered Kenmore I saw all of my friends, and then my parents and brother. That was the best part of the run” she said.

Crossing the finish line was not what O’Neil expected it to be. She expected to jump around and yell after crossing, but all she wanted was a water, her medal, and a heat cape.

“I did feel a sense of accomplishment, but it followed with some tears of sadness because this great big day that i’ve been looking forward to for forever had just came to an end” O’Neil said.

“This is a day that I will never be able to forget,” O’Neil said. “Hopefully I’ll be crossing that finish again sometimes in the future. Maybe not next year, but soon”.


Kristina near the finish line, photo credit: Patrick O’Neil


Posted by on April 27, 2015. Filed under Around Campus. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.