By Alyssa Meyers
BU News Service
BOSTON — When Andrea DeSantis joined Team in Training to run the Boston Marathon five years ago, she knew she’d get to raise money for a worthwhile cause and participate in one of the most renowned road races in the world. She didn’t know she’d make lifelong friends as well.
Team in Training, a charity team that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, has trained over half a million athletes and raised over $1.2 billion dollars to date, according to their page on the Boston Athletic Association website.
With one year of running the Boston Marathon already under her belt, DeSantis was inspired to join after a family member lost her fight with leukemia.
“My husband’s grandmother had passed away from leukemia, so I thought it would be a nice tribute to run in her honor,” she said.
After that first year, she was hooked. Even when she was a new addition to the team, DeSantis said the veteran members went out of their way to make her feel welcome.
“When you join they really stress that on Team in Training, you will meet people that will change your life and you’ll be friends for life,” DeSantis said. “I immediately made those connections.”
Now, the people she met that first year are some of her closest confidants.
“We probably talk 10 times a day via text,” she said.
Running with a team has also made DeSantis’ training process much more enjoyable and manageable, she said.
As a 42-year-old mother of two young boys and a pediatric cardiology nurse at Boston Children’s Hospital, finding time to run can be challenging for DeSantis. But as a member of Team in Training, she’s provided with a training plan and people to help her through it.
“Training for a marathon is very intricate and there’s a lot that goes into it,” she said. “I just couldn’t do the long runs without the support of Team in Training.”
In addition to actually running the marathon, members of charity teams like Team in Training have to meet fundraising goals to support the organizations they run for.
This year DeSantis set out to raise $10,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society and surpassed that goal by $1,000.
“The fundraising is harder than running the marathon or training for the marathon… but I’m blessed,” she said. “The people in my life know how much this charity means to me so they’re very willing to donate.”
DeSantis is also raising money and running the marathon with another very specific goal in mind: to show support for one of her Team in Training friends who is taking the year off from running.
Timmy Harner ran the Boston Marathon with Team in Training in 2018 and in 2017, just one year after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
This year he’s taking a break, but DeSantis said he’s a big part of the reason why she keeps coming back to the Boston Marathon and to Team in Training.
“Timmy is just the most inspiring person I’ve met,” she said. “If people like him can go through what they go through, I feel like I owe it to myself to do my part in helping the bigger cause.”
As a Foxboro resident and Waltham native, DeSantis has always known what an honor it is to compete in the Boston Marathon. But it’s not the renown that keeps her motivated.
“I come back every year for the people,” she said. “All of my friends’ stories that I hear year after year about fighting cancer, their stories have become my stories.
“I run for them.”