Just shy of four years after arriving from his Minnesota hometown, Bennet Johnson, MCAS ’17, is a mere seven days from running the Boston Marathon. Johnson, an English major and former three-year editorial board member of The Heights, has wanted to make the journey from Hopkinton, Mass. to downtown Boston ever since he first arrived on campus. Now, he will be doing so while supporting a cause close to him and his family.
Unlike the speed demons that qualify for the Marathon by running fast times at other marathons, Johnson will be running in a charity bib for the Special Olympics of Massachusetts, which helps people with mental and physical disabilities compete in sports. Johnson’s brother Sam is severely autistic, and although he personally does not participate in the Special Olympics, Johnson said that raising money for the organization would allow people like his brother to compete in the games.
“I wanted to do it for a charity that meant a lot to my family and that resonated with me,” Johnson said.
Tasked with raising at least $8,500 in donations as a minimum requirement from the Special Olympics, Johnson put his nose to the grindstone and has reached that goal.
“That’s my minimum, which is good,” he said. “Special Olympics wanted me to raise 10 [thousand], and I think that helps 26 athletes compete in the games each year, which is one for each mile I’ll be running. So that’s pretty cool.”
I was really inspired growing up by the people taking care of Sam. All the doctors, my parents especially, social workers, and others who care for these people. And that’s what the Special Olympics does. So that’s really who I wanted to do this for. Bennet Johnson
Such successes have not come without their challenges, however. Often seen tearing around the indoor track at the Plex, Johnson admitted that his lack of running knowledge prior to December caused him to sustain an overuse injury to his sartorius muscle (which runs diagonally down the front of the thigh), a muscle he didn’t even know existed.
He required physical therapy to help overcome the injury, but the local community stepped in to help. He saw a physical therapist, who now serves as his trainer, and is back on track to run the full marathon. Not only did the medical community step in to facilitate this 26.2-mile journey, but the running and business communities as well.
“The cool thing about doing this that I really didn’t know about is that there is such a community surrounding running in Boston,” he said.
Johnson is from Minnesota, where he says no one would ever form these large communities around running for charity. This sense of community and service inspires Johnson as he nears the Marathon.
Agoro’s, a local Chestnut Hill bar and restaurant, also stepped in to help Johnson on the financial side of his venture. Allowing him to guest bartend for a student-based event, Johnson made money from his tips, and a portion of the proceeds for the night went toward his charity as well.
As the gap between now and the Marathon narrows, however, the pre-race nerves are present in the back of the Minnesotan’s mind. There are concerns about pacing and injuries, but the main emotion now is excitement. In a similar way to every other student on campus, Johnson is eagerly awaiting the ridiculousness surrounding Marathon Monday’s lore, albeit for a different reason than the average BC student.
Johnson said he has had his fair share of on-campus absurdity on Patriot’s Day, but that that is what he is most excited to experience while running the race this year. Mile 21 is both feared and adored by the runners. It is the top of “Heartbreak Hill,” named for its infamous difficulty. It’s also one of the rowdiest and best-lined sections of the race, giving the runners their due praise on the gentle downhill slope of Commonwealth Ave.
“I’m definitely trying to see all my friends and everything,” Johnson said. “There’s a cool thing where you can track where people will be, so it’ll be great to see everybody while I’m doing that.”
Johnson’s father, Restor Johnson, will also be flying in to cheer on his son, although most likely not among the rowdy at Boston College. Meeting his son downtown at the finish line on Boylston, Johnson’s dad will get to experience the conclusion of his son’s first marathon as he steps over the iconic blue and yellow banner.
Despite the excitement surrounding his approach to BC’s campus and seeing his dad, Johnson has not lost sight of the reason he is able to participate in the famed Marathon. Although Sam will be unable to attend the marathon himself, Johnson said that his family connection between the Boston Marathon, the Special Olympics, and his brother is what makes this experience special.
“I was really inspired growing up by the people taking care of Sam,” Johnson said. “All the doctors, my parents especially, social workers, and others who care for these people. And that’s what the Special Olympics does. So that’s really who I wanted to do this for. And being able to have all this money go to a great cause, that means a lot to my family and my brother especially.”
Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Editor