For many runners, qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a triumphant achievement in which the years of training and logging the miles all culminates on race day. This year, 30,000 official participants have been accepted to toe the start line of this most coveted race. For more than 2,400 of them, it will be their first Boston Marathon. We asked some of our readers who are running Boston for the first time this year to share in their own words how they qualified—and what motivated them to chase a BQ. Their stories may vary, from the 60-year-old who is battling cancer to the mom of two who wants to set a good example for her sons, but they share a common spirit of perseverance and determination that, come race day, will forever define them as Boston Marathoners.
Erin Ryder, 36, Jersey City, N.J.
Credit: Graham Macindoe
Qualifying race: 2016 New Jersey Marathon
“Boston this April will be my 10th marathon. I ran my first in New York City in 2011 after losing my father to cancer in 2009, and was compelled to run with the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation team. My goal for Boston is to run feeling strong and hopefully requalify. I grew up in a running family—both my sister and I ran cross country and track, and it’s an anchor in my life. This race coming up is so meaningful—it’s a race that has to be earned. It allows me to reflect on the past several years, the hard work put in, and the growth as a result. My full family will also be there for the first time since my first marathon, this time with one additional niece and nephew, along with their big sister.”
Brooke Magni, 34, Lancaster, Pa.
Qualifying race: 2015 Harrisburg Marathon
“I wanted to run Boston more than anything in the world. After two disaster marathons I started training with a girlfriend, and not only qualified but also placed second female overall in my BQ race! I am a mom of two boys and I think it’s so important to set a good example that hard work pays off. I also wanted to show myself that there was nothing I could not accomplish. No matter how hard life can be or how bad your mistakes may seem, there can always be redemption. Boston 2017 will have a much deeper meaning to me than any other race ever has or ever will, and I am very excited to share it with my family.”
Fernando De Samaniego Steta, 32, San Francisco
Qualifying race: 2016 Oakland Marathon
“When I got into long-distance running I heard about Boston, like any other marathoner, and always thought about running it. Then my life changed and I moved to San Francisco. At the time I read Christopher McDougall’s famous book Born to Run. The combination of that book and meeting the ultra running community in the Bay Area motivated me to transition into longer races on trails and mountains. Since 2013 I’ve finished numerous 50-milers, 100Ks and 100-mile races on trails and on the mountains. However, the desire to run Boston reemerged through the same ultra community. Alex Varner, a well-known distance runner in the area and one of my best friends, always talked wonders about Boston. For the last three years, a big group from the San Francisco Running Company (who I run with) has gone to Boston and I’ve missed that every single year. The FOMO was so big last year that I decided to train for a BQ and join my friends in Boston.”
Stephen Liegghio, 47, Mount Clemens, Mich.
Qualifying race: 2016 Myrtle Beach Marathon
“I used to be a martial arts instructor. Then in 2006 I had a severe injury (compound tib/ fib fracture) that forced me to stop teaching. Over the next two years I wasn’t able to walk, and had four surgeries to repair the damage. When I got remarried in July of 2009, I saw pictures from my honeymoon and realized that I had gotten fat. That motivated me to start walking three hours a day, and I lost 70 pounds by the end of that year. In 2010, I ran my first half marathon and I continued with my running over the next couple of years until August of 2012, when I donated a kidney to a complete stranger and had to take a break. A couple years later I ran the Chicago Marathon because that’s where my donor recipient lives and I wanted him to be at the finish. After Chicago I had no intention of running another marathon. Then I watched the 2015 Boston Marathon on TV and felt maybe it was something I could do—it soon went from being something I would like to do to something that I had to do. What I’m most excited about this year is that my recipient will once again be waiting at the finish line when I get there.”
Pat Staveley, 60, Calgary, Canada
Qualifying race: 2015 Portland Marathon
“I started running at about age 52. I also started weight training with an amazing trainer named Janice, who helped me learn to run, become strong, lose weight and eat healthy. She got me through four major abdominal surgeries and I was able to run half marathons 11 weeks after the surgeries. After doing several marathons and some ultra marathons, including the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, I wanted to see if I could do a speedier run, and qualifying for Boston seemed like a great goal. Janice trained me to pick up speed, and in October 2015 I qualified for Boston in Portland, Ore. So excited to be going! September 2016 I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, but I am still working out, kickboxing and getting back to running. With my friends, including Janice, traveling to Boston with me in April, I will show up and run/walk this amazing race!”