I am running the 2014 Boston Marathon.

That sentence still doesn’t seem real to me. I’m not sure when exactly it will sink in – maybe at the starting line? Running a marathon is something I never in a million years thought I’d be able to do or have the desire to do. And it probably still wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the members of the Genzyme Running Team (GRT).

I started working with them last February, coordinating the annual Rare Disease Day Relay Run. At that point I was not a runner by any means, but somehow they convinced me to run the last leg of the relay, a 5k. Though I couldn’t consistently run the full distance in the few practice runs I went on,  I managed to run the 3.1 miles without any trouble on Rare Disease Day. That was the first time I realized the adrenaline and energy from a group of motivated people running for a cause greater than themselves can push you to accomplish far more than you think you can.

I helped them organize fundraiser events and other projects leading up to the Boston Marathon – the biggest being a dinner the Saturday night before the Marathon, hosting the runners and their families, patient partners and their families, and a few members of the Senior Leadership Team. Some members of the GRT gave remarks before dinner. I wouldn’t consider myself an emotional person but I found myself getting choked up as they spoke about  their fellow runners, their relationships with their patient partners, their experiences with the rare disease community, and the overall mission and accomplishments of the team. That’s when I realized the magnitude of what the GRT does and how it extends far beyond running 26.2 miles.

On Marathon Monday, after an early breakfast with the runners and patient partners, I wished the team good luck and headed back to my apartment close to the route. After plugging everyone’s bib number into an iPhone app to track where they were in the race, I walked down the street with my boyfriend and roommates to cheer at Mile 22. Growing up along the route, I had cheered on Boston Marathon runners since I was little, but I’d never known so many people running it or felt so close to the cause they were running for.

As each GRT bib ran past, I cheered, clapped and yelled for them whether they heard me through the crowds or not. After about half the team had ran by, I saw 2 GRT bibs coming towards me on the same side of the street I was on. It was Phil,the founder of the GRT and ultimately the push I needed to start running, and Shane, a rare disease patient and GRT community partner. Phil gave me a hug and the waterworks started again. My boyfriend looked at me and asked why in the world I was crying. I couldn’t quite put it into words but that’s when I knew, even before the tragedy at the finish line and scramble to account for everyone, that I had to be a larger part of this team. Never in my life have I met a more motivated, dedicated and inspiring group of people. I believed strongly in what they were doing, witnessed the positive impact they were making, and couldn’t settle for being a sideline cheerleader in 2014.

So that is how I got here. To waking up at 5 am to run in the snow in single digit weather (in a Santa hat, no less). To going back the gym after not having touched a treadmill in literally years. To anxiously waiting to find out who my patient partner will be. To figuring how to best leverage my birthday party to turn it into a fundraiser. To being a member of the 2014 Running for Rare Diseases Boston Marathon team. It might be the most challenging thing I’ve ever done but I think it’ll be equally as rewarding. So let the training begin (and get the tissues ready)!

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