I would like to thank the Harbinger staff for asking me to do this story, thank the Harbinger adviser, Lindsay Coppens, for forwarding this article along to Best of SNO, and thank Best of SNO for choosing this article. I’d also like to thank Connie Cao, Enchee Xu, and Mike Palmer for allowing me to interview them. Last but not least, I’d like to thank the Flutie Foundation for their continued support of me and the rest of the autism community.
The Boston Marathon is just about two months away but runners have been training all through the late spring and summer months. On Saturday mornings, runners from a number of different charity teams come together for training runs. This includes Dougie’s Team, the team for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.
Runners alternate each week between longer training sessions to work up to 26.2 miles and shorter sprints to save energy and improve speed. The entire training program takes up 22 weeks. Saturday, August 7, the 13th Saturday of the program, was a longer run in which runners traveled anywhere between 10 and 16 miles. This particular Saturday was my first chance to cover marathon training behind the scenes.
Beating the Heat
Dougie’s Team captain Mike Palmer as well as Dougie’s Team runners Ann Corbett, Ashleigh Holmes, and Hanna Adams all ran 16 miles. Even for experienced runners, running this far was not an easy feat in the hot weather. The runners tried to beat the heat by waking up as early as 5 a.m., but today was an especially warm day even in the early morning hours.
Normally, runners would be training in the winter with the marathon taking place on Patriots Day. This year, with the marathon taking place in October, the training has been a little different. I met with several Dougie’s Team runners at the Boston Common, the endpoint of their run. Lauren Machado, who ran the marathon virtually for retired Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi’s charity team in 2020, was waiting at the Common as well with snacks and water for the runners.
Coach Furey leads runners through all aspects of training
Coach John Furey, who coaches Dougie’s Team, mentioned how this part of the training was a mental challenge and gave some insight into what the runners are currently dealing with.
“What you really have the runners going through is building physical and mental toughness.”
— Coach John Furey
Words of advice amongst runners
Runners also had numerous tips for one another. Lauren explained how the snacks she was giving out benefitted runners, while Mike and Hanna had words of encouragement for their teammates.
“If you want to run a marathon, don’t let anyone say you can’t, because you can fulfill any dreams that you want if you put your mind to it.”
— Dougie’s Team captain Mike Palmer
Dougie’s Team sticks together
While today was a tough run, Dougie’s Team remained motivated with the Flutie Foundation and Marathon Monday in mind. Members of Dougie’s Team have also kept each other motivated, leaving no one behind. Running is an individual sport but during the 22 weeks of training, having teammates to train with can really make a difference. This team is united in running for the Flutie Foundation and helping each other succeed.
Support Dougie’s Team to raise money for autism
Each Dougie’s Team runner is holding a fundraiser for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism leading up to the marathon. Click here for more information on how to support these runners and the Flutie Foundation in their mission to help people and families affected by autism live life to the fullest.
Today, I watched my godfather Mark Goldfinger run the 2019 Boston Marathon, his sixth of the six Abbott World Major Marathons. Mark, along with 5000+ others is a “Six Star Finisher”. According to their website, “The Abbott World Marathon Majors is a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world. The races take place in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City.”
Mark and his mom stayed a night with us Friday night, and I got the chance to ask him a few questions about his marathon running career.
Mark’s dad Norman passed away last year in San Diego after a battle with prostate cancer. Until then, both his parents went to cheer him on at every marathon he ran, and his mom Dorene has continued to do so. She even followed him around in Tokyo where it was below freezing and hailing on race day. In honor of his dad, Mark has run all six marathons for cancer charities.
“I think what’s motivated me is being able to do something that not everyone can, but people want to do. There’s a lot of people I run my marathons for; I’ve run all six of them for a cancer charity, the last three have been in honor of my father, and I like running and raising awareness for people who can’t necessarily run or raise awareness for themselves,” Goldfinger said.
Mark ran in his hometown marathon, New York in 2013.
“So far, the New York City marathon in 2013 has been my favorite. It was my first marathon; the crowds were nonstop the entire 26.2 miles; my dad, my mom, my friends, and my family were all there, and it was really the marathon that gave me the inspiration to continue running,” Goldfinger said.
Boston was his 5th of the Abbott World Major Marathons in 2 years. After New York, he continued his running career, running the London Marathon and the Berlin Marathon, which were just 5 months apart in 2017. In London, ESPN featured him in a documentary. He set his personal best in Berlin.
After his dad’s passing in 2018, he ran in Chicago, Tokyo, and lastly Boston to complete his six stars.
“I was born and raised in New York, so I always knew that had to be my first race,” Goldfinger said. “About 2-3 months after running New York City, I learned that Abbott World Majors had six major marathons. Knowing that I had already completed one of them, and that I wanted to do Boston, I thought it would be really cool if I could figure out how to do the next four as well and then finish in Boston.” “I knew I couldn’t end on any other race except for Boston.”
Mark told me later on that the reason he wanted to finish in Boston was because of its history as one of the world’s most prestigious marathons.
On Saturday, we went with Mark and Dorene to the Boston Marathon Expo where runners could pick up their bibs prior to the race. Mark told me that things start to feel real for him when he picks up his number for the race.
But before he was able to receive his bib, we had to pass through an airport-like security checkpoint with a metal detector. This reminded me of the reason this security was added: the Boston Marathon Bombings of 2013. Last year, I wrote an experiential essay about how I learned the true meaning of Boston Strong.
I had never been to this expo before, so this was a unique experience for me. I was able to see where runners picked up their numbers and explore the various marathon-related booths and displays.
I learned a little more about the Abbott World Marathon Majors, bought a Dunkin Donuts Boston Marathon t-shirt, and took pictures with Mark and the rest of the family at a press photo station.
As per Mark’s request, we cheered him on from the midway point in Wellesley. Mark is the first Six Star Finisher that I know, and he is very important to me. Not only is he my godfather, but his dad Norman was my mom’s godfather.
This is the sign we made for Mark and held up when he ran by us in Wellesley.
We were able to track Mark on the official Boston Marathon app. We had plans to give him high fives when he passed by, so we tried to figure out exactly when he would arrive. We held up our sign when the tracker said he was close so he could find us.
Mark was running with his friend Danny Elphinston, who has run all six of the Abbott World Marathon Majors with Mark and received his Six Star medal with Mark.
Though Mark and Danny passed by quickly and we barely had time to say hello, it was pretty cool to watch my godfather run the Boston Marathon live. We watched him right in between Miles 14 and 15. Soon after seeing us, he would go on to face Heartbreak Hill, the hardest part of the Boston Marathon. For most of the marathon, Mark was running 8-minute miles. On Heartbreak Hill, Mark was forced to slow down to about a 10-minute mile.
In the meantime, the elite runners finished the race. Kenyan Lawrence Cherono led the males, just 1 second ahead of 2nd place in the closest finish since 1988. Ethiopian Worknesh Degefa led the females. Though we did not see Mark cross the finish line live, we did catch him on a livestream and I got the chance to talk to him after he finished.
“Today was a tough day,” Goldfinger said about his Marathon Monday. “I was hoping for a much better time, but the legs just didn’t want to turn. That being said, I’m excited to be part of the World Major Marathon Club and needless to say, I’ll be back to make up for my time today.”
Yesterday was World Autism Awareness Day. As you may know if you have read this blog before, I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. Doctors said I may never speak. But almost 14 years later, not only am I talking, I am a budding sports journalist who has written this blog for 5 years.
In honor of Autism Awareness Day, the Boston Herald asked me to tell my story for today’s paper! I met Joe Sciacca, the editor-in-chief of the Boston Herald at a Red Sox game in 2015. Since that day, I have gained multiple exciting sportscasting experiences from the Herald, including guest co-hosting a Boston Herald Radio show.
Now, I also serve as a Flutie Fellow for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism so I’d like to share a story about a Dougie’s Team Boston Marathon runner named Michael Palmer. Leading up to the marathon, he started something inspirational within the autism community. Below is my video about Michael alongside what I said in the video:
For Michael Palmer, running the Boston Marathon to raise funds for the Doug Flutie, Jr Foundation for Autism has personal meaning. Michael has Aspergers. He wants to spread the message that people on the autism spectrum are not alone in their daily struggles to connect with others.
Michael literally spread his wings in creating a “snow angel challenge” as part of his marathon efforts. Michael put out the challenge for people to overcome their fears and barriers and support people like him who overcome challenges daily. I can relate to Michael’s challenges and I am grateful for his efforts, as they benefit me as well. I’m Flutie Fellow Andrew Roberts, and thanks in part to Michael’s efforts, the Flutie Foundation is helping me pursue my goal of being a sports broadcaster.
Michael’s “snow angel challenge” spread through other team members and friends of the Flutie Foundation. Then, recently-retired All-Pro New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski got word of the challenge. While he didn’t jump in the snow, Gronkowski did participate in his own way. Thanks Gronk!
If you’d like to support Michael Palmer’s efforts to raise funds and awareness for autism, please check out the Flutie Foundation website at FlutieFoundation.org.
This is not the last of my Boston Marathon coverage. I will be writing more runner spotlights this year, including one about a runner for Get Air Sports, a partner of the Flutie Foundation. On a side note the Pats need a replacement for Rob Gronkowski who had fun in contributing the video for Michael. Will they address the TE position in the draft? Find out what I think in my upcoming 2019 NFL Mock Draft.
Stay tuned for more sports coverage soon. But as the Herald headline noted, my sportswriting journey is only just getting started.