Shevanna Yee, MCAS ’22, was not a runner in high school, she said. But over eight years ago, on April 15, 2013, Yee’s world changed when her cousin, Lingzi Lu, a then-graduate student at Boston University, died tragically in the Boston Marathon bombing.
Lu’s extended family established the Lingzi Foundation, which is based in Boston, in Lu’s memory. The foundation seeks to provide opportunities for people who share Lingzi’s ambition and dreams through a variety of programs. The foundation also supports many local organizations that align with its mission through grants. Over time, the foundation has had many charity runners run in Lu’s memory.
Before her cousin died, Yee never could have fathomed running a marathon, she said. But, as Yee grew older, she became more inspired to run the marathon.
“Over time, like as I grew, I was able to kind of learn more about the foundation and get more involved with it, and just kind of see I was, like, really inspired by the other runners, being able to raise money and just kind of crossing the finish line for us and [our] foundation,” Yee said. “Coming into BC, I learned how big of a holiday Marathon Monday was on campus, and that kind of made me, kind of, fall in love with it more.”
As a freshman, Yee met her two best friends, who were seniors at the time. Yee told them the story about her cousin, and the three of them made a pact to run the 125th Boston Marathon together, she said.
Somehow, despite COVID-19, everything worked out and Yee and her two friends were able to run the Marathon together, she said.
An even bigger feat than running the 26.2 miles, Yee said, was raising money that will make a difference in someone’s life.
“We committed to raise $10,000,” Yee said. “With that money, and kind of being able to support other organizations is super … uplifting.”
Yee formally announced that she would be running the marathon and began the fundraising process in May.
“It’s a ton of reaching out to the community” Yee said. “I had to constantly keep updating people on what we’re doing as a foundation and just reaching out to family members or friends, kind of, telling them that I’m gonna embark on this challenging 26.2 mile journey.”
Yee said that everyone was supportive and she thought it was important just to get Lu’s story out there. One fundraising event Yee did was at Playa Bowls. Yee wanted to connect the fundraiser with food because Lu was a big food lover with a sweet tooth, she said. Playa Bowls is also right on Mile 21, so she knew they would be supportive of her fundraising efforts, Yee said.
After Yee made the pact her freshman year to run the 125th Boston Marathon, she started her training by running two half marathons, one during freshman year and the other during sophomore year, just to see if her body could run that far, she said. Completing those gave her the drive to run the full marathon.
“I was able to do that so … [it] kind of got me going a little bit more,” Yee said. “I got more excited. I could get my training going.”
Over the summer, Yee tried to run every day. She said it was easier to train in the summer because she wasn’t in school and had more time. Once Yee returned to BC, it became harder to schedule training, she said.
“When I got back to school it was a little more tough just waking up in the mornings, trying to find that schedule, but it was definitely worth the challenge, just trying to get my body in the best shape possible for this,” Yee said.
Part of Yee’s training routine included running around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, BC’s campus, and up the steep incline of Beacon Street to train for the infamous Heartbreak Hill, she said. Yee was often accompanied by friends who also liked to run, which helped her mentally continue to get up and train.
“My friends were my biggest supporters on campus, too, they’re like hyping me up and just making sure I’m getting up in the mornings to get my running on,” Yee said. “They’re always asking me, ‘How is training going?’ and if I need anything, and that was super, super nice.”
Leading up to the race, Yee felt the nerves kicking in because the event had been such a long time coming, she said.
“I honestly could not believe that it was really happening. All my friends are like, ‘You’re running a marathon in a week, how do you feel right now? Are you prepared?’” Yee said. “I’m so tied into the event, too, so it’s definitely a lot of … pressure, but also, I knew it was gonna be an incredible day, I knew I was gonna finish. It’s just having that mindset was really important for me, just getting myself ready. Mentally ready, physically ready.”
Yee took extra care to prevent any injuries before the race. She even skipped her intramural soccer game as an extra precautionary measure, she said.
For Yee, the first half of the marathon she was able to keep a good pace. Around mile 15, the tiredness began to set in. Messages of support, including one that said, “when your feet get tired, run with your heart,” encouraged Yee to keep going, she said.
Yee’s final burst of energy came when she passed Mile 21 and saw all of her friends, other BC students, and strangers cheering her on.
“But it was honestly so fun, I had so much adrenaline from it, because I kind of conserved my energy from Heartbreak Hill to zoom down Comm. Ave.,” Yee said. “I loved seeing everyone, my friends started running down Comm. Ave. with me and just cheering and yelling, and then I was going over to everyone’s like clapping hands and everything. Yeah, it was so fun and just gave me another huge boost of energy going into the last like five miles … definitely everything I could have dreamed of. Honestly, seeing all my friends out there and cheering and even just strangers cheering you on is just a feeling like no other.”
Yee isn’t sure if she would run the Boston Marathon again, but is open to the possibility of it, she said.
“I think maybe one day I would do it again, I think it would be a fun time,” Yee said. “I think it really taught me a lot about myself and honestly just other people, like knowing how supportive everyone was just a lot of love and community from strangers. Yeah, [there’s] just a lot of good in this world.”
Photos Courtesy of Shevanna Yee