Stories about: Boston Marathon

Paying it forward: Care for son’s craniosynostosis spurs mom to run marathon

craniosynostosis

Will Flanigan can’t stop giggling. Whether he’s teasing his older sister, Spencer, or charming his way out of trouble with his parents, this toddler “is always cracking himself — and us — up,” says his mother, Caroline. “We call him Will the Thrill.”

On April 17, 2017, Will brought his good humor from his home in Dallas to the Boston Marathon finish line, where he joined his family in cheering on Caroline as she ran. But this wasn’t just any race. Caroline was running with Boston Children’s Hospital’s Miles for Miracles team for a very special reason: Almost exactly a year earlier, Will was a patient at Boston Children’s.

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The Boston Marathon: Brave and beyond

Brave. It’s the word inscribed on the simple band Mary Tremper wears on her left wrist. The band is a reminder from her son Shane that she possesses the strength and courage to bravely face the future.

When Mary, a Boston Children’s Hospital Miles for Miracles runner, found the band in the hospital gift shop she knew it was from Shane. And as Mary has shared her son’s story with her teammates and listened to theirs, they have redefined brave, together. A few of their stories, including the Tremper’s, follow.

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Paying it 26.2 miles forward

Tom Williams, a liver transplant recipient, crosses the Boston Marathon finish lineThere is a spot on the Boston Marathon route called “The Liver Mile.” It’s where the grind begins, where the storied course starts to tests runners and where legs often weary from pounding 16.8 miles of punishing roads.

Yet, it’s also where 21-year-old Tom Williams, a liver transplant recipient from Dracut, Massachusetts, first fell in love with the idea of running the Boston Marathon.

“I wasn’t thinking about the difficulty of it,” he says. “I was just thinking, I want to run for other people who are sick.”

Located in front of Newton-Wellesley Hospital, “The Liver Mile” is where volunteers hand out water and gather in support of the Run for Research team, which raises money to benefit the American Liver Foundation. For years, while someone else ran for him as part of the patient-partner program, Tom was a spectator on the sidelines.

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Faces of the Boston Marathon team

Miles for Miracles Lance
Lance, a Miles for Miracles runner, with his twins Lily and Luke

When I tell people I’m running the Boston Marathon as part of the Boston Children’s Hospital Miles for Miracles team, the standard reaction is the same. “I could never run 26.2 miles.” My response never varies. “Yes, you can … with the right training, anyone can do it.” My kids can’t give up when they don’t feel like doing something, and neither can I. ~ Lance

My feet ache. I’m often exhausted. I’m hungry all the time. And committing to a long run every Saturday — rain, snow or shine — isn’t always fun. But my efforts pale in comparison to what drives so many others on this team. There’s Lance, a non-runner channelling his children’s determination. And Hazel, a Boston Children’s operations manager and one of the fiercest runners I’ve ever met. And Melissa, a quiet presence, shouldering constant, unimaginable grief.

There’s no way I can acknowledge every single person who has been — and will be — part of this journey, so I’m approaching it the same way I think about the marathon … in 5-mile increments.

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