Running for a Reason: When Giving Back is Personal

Evelyn Crunden ’13
Features Editor

Every now and then Smith students give back to their communities in ways that touch and impact more than just those of us in the Smith bubble. As part of the American Medical Athletic Association’s “Run Boston” program, Julia Edwards ’15 will be running a marathon on April 15 from Hopkinton, Mass. to Boston, Mass. in order to fundraise for a cause her brother believed in. The experience is one she’s been preparing for over the course of the semester and Edwards took some time to share her hopes and reasons for the run.

Tell us a bit more about the race you’re running – who are you fundraising for and how does it all work?

I’m a participant the American Medical Athletic Association’s “Run Boston” program, which means that I am fundraising for their awesome cause while I train to run my first marathon. Everything I fundraise goes towards their campaign against childhood obesity, which has a central event of “National Run a Mile Days” held annually in May. These events are put on throughout the nation and aim to get kids to be active and healthy through fun and motivating activities.

You’re running from Hopkinton to Boston, hardly a small feat. What prompted you to undertake something like this?

I initially decided to participate in the “Run Boston” program for a [specific] reason: my brother, John B. Edwards III. John passed away in 2007 when he was 19, and he was training for the 2008 Boston Marathon at the time. In 2008, I trained for and ran the first half of the Boston Marathon in his honor. As I trained, I also helped to raise over $10,000 for the charities he was fundraising for – Project HEALTH and Philips Brooks House Association – and that was the starting point of my running/fundraising career. After I ran that first half marathon, I decided that in 2013, when I was 19 myself, I would run my first full marathon on the Boston course. In November, I found AMAA, and they have provided me with an entry number to help me carry out this goal.

What do you feel you are going to gain from this experience?

The main thing I’m getting out of the marathon is the personal significance of remembering my brother. However, this is also a big milestone for me as a long distance runner (it’s my first marathon, and I’ve been running for five years now), and obviously the fundraising aspect is big. It’s really cool to be supporting the AMAA and their battle against childhood obesity in the U.S., because I know that my run and all the donations I receive will be making a really positive impact on children’s lives throughout the nation.

You’re putting a lot of heart and soul into this, and it’s clearly important to you. Why do you think events like these are important for students?

I’m a huge advocate of giving back to my community – I think that fundraising or giving to charities is really important. There are a lot of issues surrounding us that may or may not be visible, yet affect so many people in our community. I think it’s important that a person – especially a young person – be conscious of these issues, and that they do their part to give back, to give others the opportunities that they’re so grateful to have. It must be so difficult and discouraging for overweight children to be stuck in this trap of having no safe or fun options for playing, no way to get fit. So I think it’s important to help these kids out, and, more generally, for students to get involved in causes that they care about.

Marathons take a lot of time and effort, especially in the lives of busy students. Do you do this sort of thing often?

Somewhat. I’ve run half of the Boston Marathon three times (in 2008, 2009 and 2011) as an unofficial, a.k.a. “bandit” runner, and I did fundraise for different charities during each of those runs. Some other charities I’ve run for include: Health Leads (formerly Project HEALTH), the Phillips Brooks House Association and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Ideally this will all go well and be a success story in terms of both completing the run and fundraising, but either way, do you plan on doing it again?

I will definitely be running more marathons in my lifetime. As for fundraising while I train, I’ll have to see. I think more of my giving back will come in other forms in the future. If (and when) I fundraise again, I think I will pair it with other activities besides running.

Anything else you’d like people to know?

My fundraising page can be found at http://www.crowdrise.com/jedwards/. I’d really appreciate it if [people were/are able to donate] … I also am accepting cash donations if people are uncomfortable or unable to donate online.

Though Edwards is set to run April 15, she will be accepting donations until early May. In the meantime, as the marathon approaches and Edwards’ training heats up, let’s all wish our fellow Smith student good luck on April 15.

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