On April 17, 102 runners will participate in the 121st Boston Marathon on behalf of MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC). These individuals support cancer care and research initiatives that enhance the quality of life for the hospital’s youngest cancer patients. This year marks the 20th anniversary of John Hancock’s partnership with the Mass General Marathon Program providing Mass General with 100 bib numbers for the race, allowing the hospital to raise more than $12 million.
As the MGH Boston Marathon team coordinator, longtime employee Ashley Bronson knows the intricacies of managing "Fighting Kids' Cancer...One Step at a Time" team. She refers to it as a life altering experience. This year though, Ashley will take to the course to experience first hand the runner perspective.
What inspired you to join the Fighting Kids’ Cancer... One Step at a Time team?
For the last three years, I’ve had the honor of leading the Mass General Marathon Team “Fighting Kid’s Cancer...One Step at a Time.” Selecting team members, scheduling team runs and planning the annual pasta dinner were just part of my job – I’ve also had the opportunity to see firsthand the unbelievable work of the MassGeneral Hospital for Children Cancer Center’s doctors, nurses, child life specialists and dedicated staff.
I met dozens of brave kids and special families who courageously face what no child should ever have to experience. The MGHfC clinical team takes a holistic approach to caring for children and families. The staff is heroes helping make kids feel like kids and focusing on their quality of life while they are going through the unimaginable. Working with these clinicians and kids has inspired me so much, and I felt it was time to give back.
Is this your first marathon?
I ran the 2012 Boston Marathon as part of the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network ‘Race for Rehab’ team.
What will you be thinking about on race day?
My patient partner Harry Burns is totally my hero. On my toughest training runs, I think about him, how brave he is, and about how his brave and loving family is always by his side. Thinking about the Burns keeps me motivated to push even harder. They are a constant reminder of how lucky I am to be healthy enough to be able to run a marathon.
Harry, his family will be at Mile 20, the base of Heartbreak Hill along with my incredibly supportive family. They’re just the motivation I’ll need to get over the hills and to the finish line.
What are some lessons you’ve learned from your patient and from training for the marathon?
Marathon training reveals strength of mind. Marathon running is a passion for some athletes, for many of us charity runners, running is a mind-over-body accomplishment that proves how mentally and physically strong you can be.
Harry has made me a more optimistic person. His first six years on this earth haven’t been easy, but he’s always smiling, laughing and loving his family. He’s a champ! I can only hope to embody a small portion of his positive spirit on Marathon Monday, and every day.
This story is part of a series that MGH will publish in advance of the 2017 marathon featuring the Pediatric Oncology and Emergency Response Teams. In addition, individuals will run for the Miles for Mass General Program, which raises funds for hospital programs that are close to their hearts – including Botswana Oncology Global Outreach, Caring for a Cure, Cystic Fibrosis, Down Syndrome and the Lurie Center for Autism.