When the more than 30,000 participants in Monday's Boston Marathon pass Wellesley College, most won't know the faces, but they will hear the students cheering. They'll see the signs and they'll know, for as far as they have come, they still have that far to go. For marathon rookie Meghan Peterson '15, reaching her alma mater and seeing her sister Courtney Peterson '17 may be even more important than the finish line on Boylston Street.
"I will start, and I'll be looking forward, not necessarily to finishing, but to mile 13," said Meghan Peterson. "I think I'll have a smile on my face from Natick Center until I pass downtown Wellesley."
A standout two-sport varsity athlete at Wellesley from 2011-2015, Peterson will be one of three members of the Wellesley field hockey family on the course on Patriots Day, along with Kerry Coyne '02 and Arielle Mitropoulos '19, but she will be running the race for a teammate who is also a member of another family, her own.
Meghan, who also played lacrosse for the Blue, will represent Team CF and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Boston, and is running for her sister Courtney, a senior at Wellesley who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis shortly after birth. For Courtney, a standout field hockey and lacrosse athlete in her own right, to have accomplished so much despite being diagnosed with a disease that affects both the lungs and digestive system is nothing short of remarkable. For Meghan, Courtney's senior year seemed like it might be the time to honor what her sister has accomplished.
"In August, I first thought about the marathon and knew that I wanted to do it but wasn't sure I wanted to do it this year. I sent an email to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation...but they weren't really sure that it would work out this year, because the foundation only gets a certain number of bibs," said Meghan. "I want to say in late October, early November I found out and they said 'you're in' and that's when it kind of became real."
And so the training began, in what became a balancing act between her own pursuits in crossfit, her social life, and logging the miles needed to prepare for the 26.2 mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston.
"I remember one Sunday this winter where it was 14 degrees with a wind chill of, I don't even know. I went out and ran four miles and turned around; I was like, I can't do this today. I knew training was going to be hard and that I would have to dedicate hours and hours, but I also knew it was doable. I always knew that if I follow training of any sort I was going to finish the end goal."
Meghan's focus led to results, and as she persisted, and New England thawed, she began to find her stride, even enlisting Courtney's help on one of her first nine mile training runs.
"I trained with her a little bit this year," said Courtney. "It was rough, but it's definitely manageable. You're not trying to win it, just finishing is great."
The sisters also joined together to find donors, helping Meghan to fly past her fundraising target with the help of likely and unlikely sources of support.
"It's kind of crazy to look at all of the people that donate," said Meghan. "It was great to see support from friends I had sort of lost touch with, but also from the Wellesley community. It made me think about the Wellesley Field Hockey family... you have that with you the rest of your life and they support you through whatever you try and do."
Peterson received support from members of the current field hockey and lacrosse teams, teammates of Courtney, that she had never played with. Parents, families, and friends were willing to help out too. Those donations continue to come through as more and more people find out that she is running on Monday.
"We are at over $11,000 now and it's incredible," said Courtney. "It's a testament to how much people are willing to support you. It's just a really nice feeling because people have been there along the way wishing Meghan good luck, but I am just excited to see her run. I think she is pretty excited too."
"I was happy because she was doing it," said Courtney of finding out that her sister would be running. "I was jealous that she could do it before me," said Courtney of her desire to run in next year's Boston Marathon.
"My [first year] I had no idea, people would hype up Marathon Monday and I just said 'OK, you see people run by Wellesley.' But it doesn't do it justice. Just describing Marathon Monday to someone, it's truly the feeling, watching thousands of people run by you with the fact that they still have 13 miles to finish until they are done, but you see the smiles on their faces, and you see some people running with prosthetics. You can see anyone, it's so inspiring."
On Monday, Meghan will go running by Wellesley, carrying her smile from Natick Center, and Courtney will be in the scream tunnel, and one way or another she will also be at the finish, excited and inspired by the accomplishment of her sister and everyone else in the race. If you are watching on Monday, Meghan may not see you, but she will hear you cheering.
To date, Meghan has raised $11,505 to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. To make a donation, visit her fundraising page.