Featured Story

Grace Beinlich

For Grace Beinlich, CSOM ’22, running the Boston Marathon was not a new idea or feat. She had been through the majority of the process—from training to getting sponsored to fundraising—just two years prior. After COVID-19 derailed her plans to run during her sophomore year and since last year’s marathon went virtual, Beinlich decided to give it one more shot in her final year at BC.

After talking to her sponsor from sophomore year, the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation, she knew that running was once again a possibility.

“My supervisors were like, ‘Yep, we’d love to have you, but you have to raise all the money all over again,’” Beinlich said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can … ask people to donate again’ so I … thought about it during the spring of junior year … then I was like, ‘You know what, I’m never gonna have this opportunity again,’ especially to do it at BC.”

Beinlich volunteered through PULSE her sophomore year with Harlem Lacrosse, which tutors, mentors, and coaches students in the Boston area who are identified as high-risk for dropping out of school. Her specific placement was at Mildred Avenue K-8 school, which is also a partner school for the Shamrock Foundation. 

“To best describe it, the Shamrock Foundation … allocates funds, and then distributes it to their partnering schools and [creates] incentives for the school … like if the school or the grade level gets a certain score, then the Celtics would come out.”

Running the Boston Marathon had crossed Beinlich’s mind since she came to college because both of her older sisters also attended BC and because the Boston Strong spirit inspired her, she said. Yet, it wasn’t until she encountered the Shamrock Foundation through PULSE that she felt ready to take the leap, she said.

“I was like, ‘This is such a good way to run for a bigger cause,’” Beinlich said. “Ultimately, I’m not a runner, so … I don’t think I would have been motivated to run if it wasn’t for a greater cause.”

After she committed to run the marathon her sophomore year, the girls at her Harlem Lacrosse placement were constantly asking her about training and showing their own excitement for her, she said. 

Beinlich took a variety of approaches to fundraising—writing letters to friends and family, raffling off a custom BC jean jacket, doing a Soul Cycle class that allowed donations, and fundraising through Chipotle, to name a few.

Balancing fundraising and training was not easy, she said, so when the spring 2020 marathon was canceled and the fall make-up date went virtual, Beinlich struggled to decide if she wanted to commit again her senior year. One deciding factor, she said, was the commitment she felt to the Shamrock Foundation and the recognition that her donations would be more impactful than usual.

“Ultimately, the charities need this money to function … especially after COVID, a lot of them didn’t get to have their big gala or golf tournament so they were kind of put in a position where they need the funds, more than ever,” Beinlich said. “Although I was like, ‘Oh I have to raise the money again,’ I realized … it’s just that much more important to hit my goal and raise as much money as I could.”

Over the first month-and-a-half of her senior year, Beinlich did have to sacrifice some of the social traditions of senior year in order to stay focused on her training, she said.

The week leading up to the race went smoothly, she said, and the hardest part was largely the anticipation. This buildup continued on race day—Beinlich and other runners woke up at 7 a.m., went to Boston Common, drove for an hour on a school bus to Hopkinton, then walked roughly 0.7 miles to the start line, she said. The weirdest part, Beinlich said, was the rolling start that was implemented due to COVID-19 protocols, which allowed runners to begin whenever they felt ready.

Once she started, she hit her first major challenge at mile 8. She was feeling like she couldn’t push any further due to fatigue until a random spectator gave her an ice pop, she said.  

“I took one because I needed sugar, and … it’s so cool to see Boston, like the community [come together],” Beinlich said. “I think, too, after the bombing happened … people are so prideful in Boston, and it’s such a time to remember everything that’s happened.”

Beinlich’s family came from Minnesota to support her, so seeing them along the course was greatly helpful, she said. The other big motivation she felt was knowing that she would see all of her friends at Mile 21.

“BC was … actually insane … I cried when I saw my friends, which was so cool, and then obviously … you turn onto Boylston Street and everyone is just so loud … I took out my headphones because I wanted to just hear everyone.”

Beyond these motivating factors along the actual race course, keeping the Shamrock Foundation in mind kept pushing her forward, Beinlich said.

“Just remembering that there’s a greater cause for all of this … like all the hard times that I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, my shins hurt,’ or like, ‘I don’t want to go for a long run’ … I just kept remembering all the kids that are gonna receive these awesome resources that I was fortunate enough to have—and I think a lot of people at BC were fortunate enough.”

Having her first Marathon Monday since freshman year be experienced from within the course gates, Beinlich said she gained a new appreciation for all of the runners and charities involved. She also realized the important place BC holds in the Boston community—members of her charity team would tell her about how Mile 21 is the best point in the marathon, without even knowing that she went to BC, Beinlich said.

“Freshman year, I was drinking … and there’s nothing wrong with partying, but … taking two minutes to go cheer people on makes such a difference, especially people who don’t have ties BC.”

Overall, after training and fundraising for the Boston Marathon twice, Beinlich said she would encourage any BC student who is considering it to go for it.

“If you’re ever thinking about doing it, I’m always team run it,” she said.

Photos Courtesy of Grace Beinlich

October 24, 2021