Sport in Society's Marathon Challenge

Follow Mark Harris and Meghan Mahoney as we train for the Boston Marathon to raise both support and awareness for Sport in Society, a Northeastern University Center.

Using sports and athletes as vehicles for change, Sport in Society's programs eliminate the inequalities that disenfranchise so many in our community. SIS programs focus on fostering diversity, eradicating gender and youth violence, and promoting healthy development through sport.

Sport in Society also aims to unite and sustain the passion of the diverse athletes and activists who believe that sport is a powerful platform for promoting equity and fairness. We hope you will join in the discussion by becoming a follower of our blog (CLICK THE LINK IN THE RIGHT SIDE BAR), posting comments to let us know what issues YOU are passionate about, getting your friends involved in the dialogue, and attending our many events to meet other passionate sport and social change leaders.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Oof, this weekend's run hurt. It was a gorgeously sunny day and my mind was ready to go, but fore some reason my body wasn't on the same page. Perhaps it's because Mark was out of town and we didn't have the entire team there, but whatever it was my legs were glad to be done when I returned home after running nearly 16 miles with Suzanne.

This weekend was certainly beautiful - for the first time I was down to only ONE long sleeve layer (and probably could have been in a t-shirt). Because I had to be in Cambridge for a cooking class at Gran Gusto (go there and eat pizza!), we stuck to another city route, heading down the River Way, a stretch on the Charles, back on the bike path, and a nice loop in the arboretum. Because it's too dark to run in the Arboretum on weekdays, I always appreciate soaking up it's beauty on sunny weekend days.

By the time we got to Suzanne's house for a water stop around mile 9 my legs were ready to be done..but I don't really give my legs, or my doubts, a say in whether or not I keep going, so we did just that, we kept going.

While it hurt, and it continued to hurt yesterday when I did a 4 mile tempo run and today when I accidentally ran 10 miles at 5:30 in the morning, in the grand scheme of things I know I could push myself a lot more. And that is what marathon training is all about, pushing past imagined limits.

I'm actually finding the fundraising to be much more challenging than the running itself. While I'm confident we can do it, finding new ways to engage new supporters and get donations from contacts I tapped out long ago for Habitat International trips and the like takes a lot more brain power and creativity than just hitting the pavement. I'm so touched by the donations that have already come in and am really excited about our upcoming fundraising events (a happy hour at the Pour House, a Marathon Finish Line Party on Boylston St., and a potential Ice Cream Social-Justice and Pizza Party at Picco), but we're still making an effort to get people excited enough about Sport in Society and our campaign that they'll want to come. I'm confident we'll succeed in both running and fundraising, and I'm confident that Sport in Society's mission and work make it a worthwhile organization to which I'm asking people to donate, but neither is without its struggles.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

13.4, 19.4, 15

To the right is a picture of Mark and Meghan with Olympic legends and Civil Rights activists Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the SIS True Heroes of Sport Awards Gala.

Two Weeks Ago:

I learned two weeks ago that I, just like everyone else in this world, need water when I run. I've always been pretty bad at keeping hydrated during long runs, using my inability to run and drink at the same time as an excuse. I learned the hard way a few weeks ago that no matter how much I try to convince myself that I'm fine without a lot of water stops, I need them just as much as anybody else. I was going away for the weekend, so I ran on Friday morning by myself. It was a gorgeously sunny day, but the wind was strong and I felt as if it was blowing against me no matter what direction I was headed. Wanting to get as far away from my regular running routes as possible in order to see new sites, I mapped out a route that took me out through West Roxbury and back through Brookline...with no water stops in between -- bad idea. The run was not completely terrible, but my body truly felt the toll of dehydration. Around 7-8 miles I ran through a few gorgeous cemeteries in West Roxbury and couldn't help joking to myself that, as bad as I felt, I at least was doing better than those around me. In seriousness, though, the cemeteries brought me an interesting sense of support and inspiration that day. I was definitely struggling without Mark and Suzanne's energy driving me forward, but I did find strength in the memory of friends (past and present) whose last names were written on many of the grave stones I passed. It's an odd sensation to write about, but I found real comfort in the memory and thoughts of inspirational friends. I definitely felt friendless, however, pushing through the last 5 or so miles...when the real headache and nausea set in from the lack of water. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I had no choice but to get back home if I wanted to find water, so I told my body to suck it up and just ran. It was among the most difficult of all runs yet, but as always, having pushed through the feelings of doubt and physical pain, it was that much more rewarding afterward.

Two weeks ago:

Last Week:

Last week was a very different story...on a bright, sunny, rather warm day, the three of us set out for what would be our longest yet - 18 miles. We all felt great and were happy to be together after a week of running on our own. That Friday we held a fundraiser for NEU staff and it was a wonderful energizer for us and a great chance for the three of us to be together without running. (Thanks to all those who came out to support us that night!). The run itself was also fantastic. I really wanted to be in Boston, so we picked a route that took us all the way downtown, down State Street, and up near the Garden. Generally, the only time I like to be downtown is early on a weekend day, when it is not the crowded, fast-paced place it is during the week (although sometimes I like to go downtown just to remind myself of why I appreciate working at Sport in Society, which at times may get hectic but always because we see our mission as so urgent). You realize just how small Boston really is when you try to map out a 18 mile running route...we got all the way across the city and had only gotten about 7 miles under our belts! While the usual crowds weren't downtown we did happen to run through a crowd of homeless individuals, being served a hot breakfast in Boston Common. Like our experience running through Copley a few weeks ago, it's a reminder of why I'm running this race. There are actually two main reasons why I'm running - the first is that I am a true believer in Sport in Society's mission and am amazed at how one small organization can make such a significant impact in the lives of so many individuals, whether we are providing Boston's youth wtih valuable opportunities to become physically active or take a stand against violence and discrimination, or whether we are educating adults as socially conscious leaders who can have an exponential impact on the youth and communities they interface with each day; the second reason is that I want to in some way inspire others who care deeply about creating a better world to become leaders in action themselves, in whatever way they can. For me, I'm an athlete, so I can use this opportunity to run and raise money for SIS; for those individuals in the Common, they have the time and ability to go out and provide food for Boston's disenfranchised once a week; what do you care about and what can you do? And I'm actually re-inspiring myself to do more. I've got a running list of things I am looking forward to doing post-marathon and at the top of the list is volunteering more regularly at Haley House , where I can use my other passion (FOOD) to strenghten my ability to understand and serve the community (make sure you check out the Haley House website and go visit the cafe!!!). Second on the list is having a glass of red wine! But, back to the was great!! And, in all honesty, I was on a high ALL day. I originally thought I'd crash right away, but instead I wound up being hyperactive, chopping wood at Land's Sake Farm all day, soaking in a hot tub at Inman Oasis, having a superb dinner at Oleana Restaurant, and staying out until 2 a.m. listening to music! I honestly feel far better after running 20 miles than I do on the days I don't work out and feel groggy as a result!

Last week:

This Week:

This week was another "short" 13 mile run and I'm increasingly amazed at just how short they feel now! The morning started off rather dark, but it became an bright and beautiful day. It even warmed up enough for me to downsize to 3 layers half way through the run (I've been in 4 least...all winter)!! The most enjoyable part of the day, however, was breakfast at Sorella's, mainly because it is the first time Mark has actually had time to eat with us. Normally, we finish our runs and he has to dart home to shower and then go into work, since so much of his job involves interfacing with alumni at Northeastern's athletic events. I'm absolutely amazed and inspired by Mark. I'd like to complain that I am doing a lot and don't have much time to do much besides run, work and study for school, but Mark puts me to shame....having games to attend nearly every night on top of working full time and marathon training. And he does his job well...this past year NEU athletics quadrupled its fundraising dollars!! So, long story short, it was great that he had some extra time to kick back and enjoy some eggs and pancakes with us!

I will keep you all posted about our upcoming runs. In about two weeks we will be hitting our 20/22 mile mark and will be calling on volunteers to run our much needed water stops, so if you are interested please email me and let me know!

This week:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Coming Out of the Woodwork

Thanks to all those who have so quickly responded to our request for support! Our first donations have been coming in and I am really touched by how many of you generously offered something to our campaign, without even making it known to me. That is true generosity of spirit and I am unbelievably appreciative!

I've been amazed by how many people from my past, as well as from across the country, with whom I haven't connected in so long, have taken the lead in donating.

Steve V.

..Thanks to you all!!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Black History Month in Roxbury

While we our exploring Boston in our own way, you should definitely take the time to explore Boston's rich history, as well .. Click Here to Learn more about Discover Roxbury!

For the Love of the Game

This really great story came out in yesterday's Worcester Telegram and Gazette about the Holy Cross Women's Ice Hockey team, which is having the best season of any HC team this year and the best season in the team's own history! Despite the change in the team's play, there unfortunately hasn't been any change in attendance since my tenure as a Crusader.

"These Crusaders aren’t as fast or as physical as their male counterparts, but they exhibit the same skills. The dedication to improve, desire to succeed and devotion to their sport ... is equally impressive. "

While our marathon campaign is all about gaining attention and raising awareness, it's equally as important to remember what sport, at its core and at its purest is all about - the value and joy of effort, the power of teamwork, the triumph against adversity, etc. It is unfortunate that the team isn't drawing more attention for their impressive success, but inspiring that what matters to them is the game and the self-awareness that they are achieving incredible things.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

16.2, 17.2, 13.2...with maps!

Over the past few weeks, we've really been upping the mileage and, suddenly it seems, running 13 miles feels like a short little jaunt!

Probably one of the most self-affirming runs yet, took place 3 weeks ago when I did a 16 miler by myself, at 5:30 in the morning before work! I was going to Vermont for the weekend and had to get my long run in before I left if I wanted to do something other than running while I was away. I was rather wary of running 16 miles on my own -- my trepidation was much more a questioning of my mental toughness than it was a fear that my legs would hold out. I'm realizing more and more that distance running is much more about mental resolve than it is physical endurance. So, you tell your body that it has no choice, and you just do it. And I did! And not only that, but I got it all in by 8:30 and still was able to get in a full day of work and 5 hour drive to Burlington!

The run brought me down to Harvard Stadium, where I grabbed some water from my usual workout partners who meet there a few times a week, and then eastward down the Charles towards the city, where I was blessed with another gorgeous Boston sunrise! I also took a spin through the Copley area, where I got to watch the city as it started to wake up. I always experience great ambivalence while running through Copley, torn between enjoying the beauty of the place and always cognizant of the numerous homeless citizens whom I always encounter. I feel so fortunate to have been born with the privileges I have experienced and am so often frustrated that this reality can't be shared by everyone. I know that Sport in Society works to create better realities for all, which is why I am so honored to be on the SIS marathon team. And though my small bit of fundraising will never get us to the point where we can finally realize our ultimate social justice mission, perhaps the very fact that you read this will inspire YOU to act in some way (whether it be to donate, volunteer, or treat someone else with dignity) and then I will feel like I have done my duty.

Then, last week, we kicked it up ANOTHER notch and did a 17.2 miler as a group. It seems that every week, one of us is leading the pack, and last week it was Suzanne who was on fire, despite having 4 hours of sleep. I wanted so badly to feel great, but my legs were just incredibly tight from the cold. We did it, though. We told our bodies we were finishing one way or another and we did.

The 17 miler started out at Arlington's Fresh Pond, which requires extra attention due to the ridiculous number of dog-walkers. The run itself was quite a pain, since it seemed all sidewalks were covered in snow and ice. We were either dodging traffic or slipping on sidewalks, either of which I'd take over running against the wind along the Charles, which we wound up having to do from miles 12 -14 ish! I never knew someone's face could hurt so badly!

Since we did a long one last weekend and have an even longer one (18) next weekend, we just had a "short" one this week...."short" meaning 13 miles. Although we had an amazing warm front come in today, it waited until the afternoon, which meant it was still only about 17 degrees when we set off. While I don't mind the cold in general, it takes an incredibly long time for my legs to get warmed up and feeling good. So, while mentally I was in my prime and feeling great, my shins were burning for the first half of the run (the fact that it was almost entirely up hill didn't help much). Overall, however, it was a gorgeous run (taking us through Brookline and the Arboretum) and we were all amazed by how short it seemed compared to our first 13 miler just a few weeks ago!

In all earnestness, I wish that all people could experience this realization, the recognition that after a little effort, so much of what we once thought impossible now seems like a cake walk. I write this because we as a society so often put off working for change because, well, it just seems too impossible. But how long ago were we saying that having an African American president would be impossible? How many people said that women earning the right to vote would be impossible?

As T.S. Eliot wrote, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” To me, the idea of activism and challenging unjust norms is all about finding out how fare WE can go by risking the criticism, the questioning, the rejection. Because, as Thich Nhat Hanh, writes, "The tears I shed yesterday have become rain," meaning that it often requires pain to get to happiness, moreover a level of happiness that, like rain, helps others grow.

Yes, sometimes my legs might burn during a run, but how much better will I feel during the marathon because I have put in the long, painful training hours? And, yes, sometimes people might laugh at the idea that athletes have a special opportunity to create change, or might resist accepting shifts in commonly accepted paradigms because it is natural to fear the unknown, but isn't it our responsibility to face these challenges if we know that doing so will lead to a better life for everyone? There are so many ways that sports have the potential to foster social justice and I have actually been quite amazed at the level of reflection my marathon training has afforded me. And I hope that in reading my musings you are somewhat inspired to reflect and ACT upon these same ideas...without having to go through the actual physical pain!

Give By the Mile!

A lot of people have said that they'd like to donate, but don't know how much to give. Since we're asking people to sponsor our run, I thought I would break it down by the mile to give you some ideas of ways you can show your support.

If you let me know how much you'd like to pledge I'll give you your grand total when we near race day!
1. $26.20 equals ONLY $1 for every mile of the race
2. Pledge 26 Cents for every mile of my training, which will total about 640 Miles and $165
3. Heck, pledge $1 for every mile of training (roughly $640)!
4. Do what you can! Barack Obama's campaign showed us all how much can be gained if everyone donates even the smallest amount! I realize each time I run, that every step, every mile, every meal, every hour of sleep, counts. The same is true for our donations, so please be a LEADER IN ACTION and help us reach our goal!

You've heard it before, but these are tough times and they're even tougher for an organization whose end product is justice. But I believe in the value of this very important work and I trust that you do, as well, and will do what you can!

If you'd like to make a pledge per mile, please email me OR DONATE NOW BY CLICKING HERE!

Thank you very much for your time, your friendship, your support, and, most of all, your existence!