Chris Kabacinski, A&S ’16, was sick of his twin sister outmatching him in sports.
A lanky kid from Scranton, Pa., basketball and soccer were mostly out of his range during his childhood, and, hoping to find himself a group of friends, he joined the cross-country team on a whim in the sixth grade and eventually found something he did not expect-a sport that would eventually become his niche.
Kabacinski was never the best runner in a group of sixth-grade athletes. In fact, he finished in last place, or near the bottom of the standings, in almost every race.
Rather than sulk about his lack of running prowess, however, Kabacinski, then only 12, decided he wanted to become faster and stronger. He joined the Holy Redeemer Junior High cross-country team in the seventh grade, though he knew he would struggle to keep pace with his peers.
He hit the track nearly every day, though-getting stronger, sharpening his form, increasing his speed-in order to prove that he could run.
Kabacinski wanted nothing more than to place in the top eight runners on his cross-country team in order to go to the state tournament. Working from the absolute bottom, he focused on one objective-the two-mile track district race.
After years of work, he finally qualified for the race during his senior year of high school. Despite all of the doubts and last place finishes, Kabacinski’s work paid off.
He earned a medal.
If you asked Kabacinski whether he imagined himself running the 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon-one of the most competitive races in the world-he would probably look at you like you were crazy.
“In my sophomore year of high school, I was running 5Ks at the same pace that I run my marathons now,” he said. “If you told me then that I would run a marathon in my sophomore year of college-let alone the Boston Marathon-there is no way I would have believed you.”
Kabacinski first experienced the Boston Marathon as a senior in high school. He visited Boston College on Admitted Eagle Day and immediately fell in love with the incredible spirit and passion displayed by the BC community, screaming and cheering for runners passing Mile 21.
Kabacinski was eager to continue his passion for running at BC. After his first marathon experience, he grew fascinated with the idea of running the long distance races. He decided to pursue running throughout his freshman year of college. After considering walking on to either the cross-country or track teams at BC, Kabacinski decided to make his dream of running marathons a reality by gradually increasing his distance each day. Five miles led to 10, and gradually to 12, 15-the number continued to rise.
The events of April 15, 2013 opened a door to numerous possibilities for Kabacinski, putting his ideas about running a full-length marathon into new perspective.
The bombings. The chaos. The screams and cries for help. All of these images remained with Kabacinski in the aftermath of last year’s marathon.
This tragedy, however, drove Kabacinski to reach a new level.
He focused his energy not on hatred, anger, or fear, but on motivation. He wanted to make a difference by doing what he feels he is meant to do-run.
Not for himself, but for the victims of the marathon, the families of those victims, fallen MIT police officer Sean Collier, and the city of Boston.
Kabacinski began putting in the work needed to run a 26.2-mile race. Throughout the summer after his freshman year, he trained every day in hopes of completing the long distance of the Steamtown Marathon in October.
The result was better than he could have imagined. Although he missed officially qualifying for the Boston Marathon by just two minutes, Kabacinski completed the race and was hungry for more.
Kabacinski wanted to run for a purpose.
During high school, he ran with his team and had the support of each member as they all trained together, day in and day out. As a sophomore in college, though, Kabacinski wanted a new team that would motivate him to run for a good cause.
He began looking for various charity teams that would sponsor competitive runners in the Boston Marathon, and he decided to apply to the town of Wellesley’s program, which had a limited number of spots and did not specify which charity would be given to individual runners. The whole process would take a few months.
So he waited.
Just when it seemed like there was no hope, no possibility of running for a greater cause and fulfilling his long-term goal of racing in the Marathon, Kabacinksi received an email on a brisk fall afternoon in November, offering him a sponsorship with the Wellesley Education Foundation (WEF).
He was ecstatic.
After months of waiting, Kabacinski was lucky enough to be given an opportunity to accomplish his dream finally. His assignment was to raise $4,000 for WEF. After sharing the news with his parents and friends, Kabacinski accepted the offer and began working with the organization, a private foundation that mainly funds innovative and creative projects within Wellesley’s public schools in order to enhance the learning experience for children.
Kabacinski personally is passionate about education. The BC sophomore is studying English and Medical Humanities, and he is also president of BC Reads-a club that promotes literacy within the greater Boston area. Running for WEF, then, creates a crucial bridge between the action of running and his purpose for doing so.
Along with his love of words and literature, Kabacinski decided that the best way to raise awareness for WEF and accumulate $4,000 of donations was through an online blog titled “Run the Course.” With the help of Twitter and Facebook, Kabacinski has disseminated information about his cause and WEF, accumulating over $3,000 in donations, and nearing the $4,000 mark as the marathon edges closer.
Aside from working to gain donations, Kabacinski’s blog serves as an outlet to reflect on his training and share his running experiences. His blog features various short posts, ranging from “Running from, Running for,” wherein he outlines his motives for running the marathon, to “Running Christmas List,” as well as his personal Twitter feed.
“I like having a place to go to describe what I’m going through and how I’m feeling,” he said, “because a lot of people do not see or experience the other side of training. Marathoning is about the miles, not just the time, and about how you’re feeling and the support you’re getting along the way.”
Indeed, Kabacinski said that he has received much enthusiastic support from Boston’s running community as he works to complete his 16-week training program.
Last weekend, Kabacinski enjoyed a run on a cloudy Saturday morning up Comm. Ave. As he trudged up the steep hill that makes up Mile 21, hundreds of people decked out in compression shirts and neon-colored shoes were high-fiving each other and giving out words of encouragement to other passing runners. Another group of people was handing out cups of water. Still another was handing out gels.
The palpable energy and enthusiasm on Comm. Ave. that overcast morning allowed Kabacinski to run by BC with a huge smile on his face.
“The community up here is amazing and so supportive,” Kabacinski said. “I don’t get that back at home, and it’s invigorating.”
Although training has gone well for Kabacinski over the past 16 weeks, there was a time where he was unsure if he would be ready for the race. For a period of two weeks, Kabacinski battled a combination of strep throat and foot injuries, and he wasn’t even sure that he would make it to the starting line.
Perhaps his biggest hurdle this season occurred last week-when Kabacinski was not only recovering from his illness, but was compromising a balance between school and fitness also.
“Last week, there was too much going on with school and other activities,” Kabacinski said. “I have to get out there every single day and train. I don’t ever take a rest day. My training is about getting in the mileage each day, and last week was a struggle, running a lot of miles and making sure I had the time for it.”
During those difficult times, Kabacinski was motivated by the various people who allowed him to reach this moment. WEF has been an influential resource to Kabacinski throughout his training, and the people who run the organization refer to themselves as his “Massachusetts Moms.” The organization is always eager to speak to Kabacinski and discuss his training at any time. He regularly communicates with the organization through FaceTime, and the women frequently offer him water and support throughout the week.
Kabacinski is also very involved in the organization’s activities. He visited a technology exposition hosted by WEF last weekend, and he hopes to attend more educational events in the future.
One of the individuals who has worked with Kabacinski over the past seven years is his friend and coach Dave Levandoski. He is just a few years older than Kabacinski and a former teammate from the cross-country team in high school. Levandoski has remained a powerful influence in Kabacinski’s life and has given him the inspiration to perform at his personal best.
Levandoski coached Kabacinski during his senior year of high school when Levandoski returned as a distance coach on the track team. From December until March, Levandoski coached Kabacinski through personal workouts, stretching, foam rolling, icing, reading, and eating in order to train properly for a two-mile race that would last about 10 minutes.
“Being his coach, the first thing I noticed about Chris was his character,” Levandoski said. “He has always had a great attitude, no matter what he was doing-he was never mad, angry, grumpy, or whiny. You could say jump, and Chris would ask how high. The work ethic I saw that year was unmatched, and still is.”
Although Levandoski is slightly older than his friend, he looks up to Kabacinski for his personal character and ethics, and for his ability to see the true beauty in running. He is proud of Kabacinski’s training over the years and believes that he will make a tremendous impact on WEF.
“If something has meaning or purpose, Chris will put his heart into it,” Levandoski said. “This year, running for Boston means a lot more than a marathon. It means remembering those who were affected by last year’s tragedy. Chris is not only running for himself and for WEF, who he’s put in so much time fundraising for, but he is also running for his city, for Boston.”
The 118th Boston Marathon is set for April 21. Through all of the long runs, vigorous training, and fundraising over the past five months, Kabacinski has reached his athletic peak-a far cry from a kid struggling with sports in Scranton.
Still, his focus is less on running than it is on purpose. WEF gave him that chance, and Kabacinski is thankful every day that he can run to promote education.
“The race is not about me,” he said. “This race is about raising money for this great program. My hope is this race will help kids question how they see the world.”