Students run marathon on Goodwill team

Three Boston University students will be participating in the Boston Marathon April 21 as members of Goodwill’s Boston Marathon Team in support of Goodwill’s Youth Initiative.

Sargent College of Health and Sciences fifth-year doctoral student Nicholas Wendel is coaching SAR student Carolyn Harper, also a fifth-year physical therapy doctoral student, and SAR junior Liz Rathje, along with 21 other runners on their road to the Boston Marathon. The team will raise funds for Goodwill’s Youth Initiative, which offers a youth mentoring program, an after-school program and summer job opportunities for young adults in Boston.

“All of the Goodwills have this mission to help people with barriers find work,” said Goodwill Marathon Running Team spokesperson James Harder. “Those could be individuals who have disabilities or even socio-economic barriers, such as having not finished high school or speaking English only as a second language.”

The students are working toward a goal of raising $70,000 for ESL programs, Harder said. These contestants were chosen as runners for the program’s running team because of their commitment and devotion to the cause.

“These runners applied, and we only had a certain number of numbers, but they were able to commit to the cause and were close to the program and the mission,” he said.

The team’s first student coach, Wendel, has worked closely with Aaron Blum, who coached last year’s team. Blum has since relocated to Colorado so Wendel succeeded him, taking over as coach for the group of runners.

Wendel said he coaches many practices with the team, creates training plans and answers any questions that the runners may have. His main goal, he said, is to see that the runners achieve their own individual goals.

“I wrote a training plan that started in January and many of the runners have been following it,” Wendel said. “The basic structure includes mid-distance runs five-to-seven miles during the week with one faster run on Friday and a long run on Sunday. The long runs increase every week from eight miles all the way up to 21 [miles] three weeks before the race.”

Instead of running, Wendel saw the coaching opportunity as a chance to celebrate with the community after a year of tragedy and hardship.

“On the day of the marathon, I will be a fan cheering on all of the runners and especially everyone running for Goodwill and all of the other charities,” he said. “I am looking forward to watching this special race as a spectator because it means so much to me personally and to the whole city of Boston.”

Harper, one of the team’s 23 runners, is on BU’s triathlon team and ran three times a week before marathon training began. She applied for the Goodwill running team after Wendel suggested she do so.

“I looked it up online and was amazed at the wonderful program offered by Goodwill,” Harper said. “I applied and was accepted. I realized that this was the team that I wanted to run for.”

Harper said the training schedule is strenuous and time-consuming, but she has been able to manage.

“I’ve had to train for the triathlon, my dance performance and the marathon all at the same time,” she said. “For the marathon, I’ve been running about days a week including a long run on Sunday, a tempo run, a track workout, a mid distance run and a recovery run.”

Harper said she’s aiming to raise $4,000 of the teams $70,000 goal, an accomplishment that would hold personal significance to her.

“I will be raising $4,000, attending the team breakfast on April 19 and seeing everyone the morning of the race,” she said. “[Raising the goal amount] would mean that I have finally accomplished my goal that I’ve had since freshman year of college.”


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