By Colleen Sullivan
Photography by Theresa Johnson Herlihy, MarathonFoto
Around mile 20 of the 2023 Boston Marathon,® Leah Meehan was in pain from a knee injury and struggling to keep pace. Out of nowhere, a bystander ran up to her with a bowl of bananas and said, “Take one of these. It will help you. The finish line is just six more miles away. You can do this!”
That act of kindness embodies the camaraderie and compassion that were on full display on Marathon Monday, a day made more poignant by marking the 10th anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Runners from all over the world came together on a day that celebrates athletic excellence and the powerful impact of charitable giving, including Meehan and more than 500 fellow members of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC). This year’s team raised more than $7.8 million for the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research at Dana-Farber.
“The kindness and support from complete strangers were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and are something I will never forget,” said Meehan, who raised more than $110,000 as a first-time DFMC member in honor of her friend Tony Turano.
Meehan turned to running during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to cope while in lockdown. When Tony passed away in October 2021, Meehan channeled her newfound passion into a good cause: “I could not think of a better way to honor and remember his life than to run for and give back to the organization that allowed us the most valuable gift of all—more time with him.”
Many people who run for Dana-Farber develop a lifelong passion for the cause. Laurie Nahigian admits that she is not an avid runner, and yet she has run 25 marathons for Dana-Farber because, “I have to. Raising the money matters, and curing cancer matters.”
Regarding her incredible 25-year milestone, and the nearly $450,000 she has raised during that time, Nahigian said that for her, “it’s not about the miles I’ve run. Yes, I’ve crossed the finish line 25 times and am proud of that, but I’m not done. I’ll be back next year—when we cure cancer, that’s the real milestone.”
Former Dana-Farber instructor Shannon Bailey, PhD, began running with DFMC in 2019 and has run every year since. “Dana-Farber has some of the greatest science minds who perform some of the most cutting-edge research,” said Bailey, who raised more than $10,000.
As a scientist, he knows firsthand the financial resources it takes to fund research and develop new ideas in cancer medicine. “I am very committed to helping make cancer a disease you live with and not die from. I hope the money we raise can lead to more and better treatments for patients.”
Since 1990, DFMC has raised more than $122 million to benefit the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research, advancing promising ideas at their earliest stages so they can move forward toward discovery and cure. Breakthroughs in basic science at Dana-Farber have led to more funding, clinical trials, and FDA-approved treatments for a variety of cancers.