‘MIT Strong’ team to race in marathon

40 runners try to raise $142,600 for the Sean Collier Memorial Fund

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that all MIT Strong team members were asked to raise $1,000. This was true of runners who joined the team with bibs not obtained through MIT, but those who received bibs through MIT were asked to raise $4,000.

MIT has backed its own team, MIT Strong, to run the 2014 Boston Marathon in memory of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, who died in violence following bombings at the 2013 marathon.The MIT Strong team is made up of 40 individuals, both affiliated and unaffiliated with MIT. A diverse group composed of students, faculty members, alumni, and facilities workers will be running the marathon on the team.

“We really only started with 25 people who got numbers [qualifying spots] from MIT, from the BAA [Boston Athletic Association]. And other people joined the team when they got numbers from another source,” stated Joseph M. Azzarelli G, a graduate student in the chemistry department at MIT and member of the team. According to member Sally A. Miller ’16, “Basically, you had another 15 people join on who were other people that thought, ‘Hey this means something to me.’”

Along with running the marathon itself, each team member of MIT Strong with a number through MIT was suggested to raise $4,000 ($1,000 for those who joined with other numbers) for the Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund, a charity established by MIT in the aftermath of the marathon bombings in order “to establish a Collier Medal — to be awarded to individuals who demonstrate the values and character of Officer Collier — as well as other causes,” according to the award’s website.

At press time, the total funds donated to the team (including those donations dedicated to the whole team and individual runners) stands at $138,025.18, which is 97 percent of the combined team goal of $142,600.

“I was excited about the possibility of running Boston this year, but realized the real focus was trying to raise funds for the Collier Memorial Fund. I am amazed at the commitment of all the team members to meet and hopefully exceed our minimum goal for fund-raising,” said Professor Jonathan A. Runstadler, an assistant professor in the biological engineering department. Runstadler is among five professors on the MIT Strong team.

While MIT Strong was organized by MIT, there was no leader of the team, but rather an organizing committee that planned and executed the logistics of events. Kris Brewer, a member of this five-person committee, said, “It’s been a lot of work planning and arranging all of the pieces, but definitely rewarding.” The other members of the committee included Miller, Tom Gearty of the MIT Resource Development, Chad Galts of the School of Engineering, and Stephanie Kloos, a fitness director at the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER).

According to the team members, each runner has been preparing for the marathon for months, many of them setting up practices together. Miller and Azzarelli, however, both believed the race itself isn’t as important as the message the team sends to the MIT community. “It’s not really about the personal best. The biggest thing is that there will be a lot of energy that day and it’s just a really interesting Boston Marathon to be running,” said Azzarelli.

The team itself was described by Runstadler as a “cross-section” of the MIT community who all have demonstrated the spirit of MIT. On the fund-raising campaign and MIT Strong team, Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88 said, “There is something grander at work here. [The MIT Strong team] starts to symbolize a community.”

MIT will also host a series of events today, starting with a ceremony for Collier from 9:30-11:30 a.m. followed by a community picnic on the North Court, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. The Boston Marathon takes place on Monday, April 21. Designated cheer stations and bib numbers for the marathon runners of the MIT Strong team can be found at: