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‘A Party for 26 Miles’: Harvard Students Run 2024 Boston Marathon

A runner celebrates after crossing the finish lane at the 128th Boston Marathon on Monday.
A runner celebrates after crossing the finish lane at the 128th Boston Marathon on Monday. By Katherine A. Harvey
By Madeleine A. Hung and Azusa M. Lippit, Crimson Staff Writers

BOSTON — Tens of thousands of spectators cheered, played music, and held handmade signs in 70 degree heat at the 128th Boston Marathon on Monday as runners — among them several Harvard College students and recent alumni — traversed a hilly 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to the Copley Square finish line.

After the race, finishers recovered and caught up with supporters while lounging in the Boston Common and Public Garden under blossoming trees.

“It was like a party for 26 miles. People were cheering, there were kids high-fiving everybody, all the signs you could think of in the world,” runner Sarah M. Rojas ’25 said.

Students said they saw spectators holding signs with a range of amusing and motivational messages, including “On a scale of one to ten, you’re a 26.2” and “Hurry up, and then you can drink after this.”

Will C. Leonard ’24 — who ran a 2:41:21 time and finished in the top 2 percent of runners — said his friends made a particularly touching sign using his name.

“Unfortunately I didn’t actually see it during the race, I only caught a glimpse of it, but it said ‘Horsepower has nothing on willpower,’” Leonard said.

The Harvard College Marathon Challenge — a group of Harvard affiliates that often fundraises and distributes charity bibs — did not receive any spots this year. In order to participate, students either had to run a qualifying time in a previous race or could fundraise for a charity.

Rojas — who fundraised for the Boston Public Library — said she wrote an essay and interviewed before raising $5,000 for the charity.

“It’s always been my dream to run this marathon, ever since I got into Harvard,” said Rojas, a Crimson Arts editor.

Kieran S. McDaniel ’27 said he has wanted to run the Boston Marathon since reading Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run” during his junior year of high school.

“It talked about a lot of inspiring running stories — a lot of ultramarathoners — and I thought, ‘maybe this is something I could try,’” McDaniel said.

McDaniel said he struggled during the race due to a coughing fit that made it hard to breathe, but he pushed through to finish in three hours and 27 minutes.

“Around halfway, I realized that okay, maybe I should just turn this into a run and focus on finishing,” he said. “So that’s what I did.”

Alexi Stavropoulos ’24, who fundraised for Massachusetts General Hospital’s pediatric cancer research in order to qualify, said the run was “an insane experience.”

“When you’re running, there’s constantly noise coming from people supporting you, but then there’s also all the people that are in the same physical state,” Stavropoulos said. “It’s like your person just gets dissolved with everyone else and it’s just a one, collective movement.”

A spectator holds a sign saying "We did it, Joe" from the sidelines of the race.
A spectator holds a sign saying "We did it, Joe" from the sidelines of the race. By Ike J. Park

Though the sunny weather provided perfect conditions for spectators, some students said it made the run difficult.

“A lot of people on the course were saying ‘We trained in the winter, and we’re racing in the summer,’” Rojas said.

Several students said they also struggled with the hills in the course, particularly Heartbreak Hill, an infamous section of the course at mile 20.

Benjamin G. Ford ’26 said he found it difficult to “keep up with hydration” in the sweltering heat at his second marathon.

“You see a lot of — I guess you would call it — carnage, around you,” Ford said. “A lot of runners getting taken out in wheelchairs, a lot of walking.”

“But I definitely was very dedicated to finishing the race,” Ford added. “I kind of told myself — no matter what — I would crawl across that line.”

According to Luke R. Laverdiere ’23 — who raced alongside three of his former teammates from the College’s track and field team — the energy of the crowd was essential to make it through the course’s notorious hills and the intensifying heat.

“They gave me a big boost at each of those points that I really needed,” Laverdiere said of the cheering spectators.

Students also described the months-long training process as rewarding, despite difficulties balancing classes and time-intensive preparation.

“Sometimes they take away from each other, being in class and having to train as well,” McDaniel said. “But I think more often than not they complement each other as well, because each builds my discipline in different ways.”

“I would be a slower runner, and probably a worse learner, without the influence of both of those in my life,” he added.

—Staff writer Madeleine A. Hung can be reached at

—Staff writer Azusa M. Lippit can be reached at Follow her on X @azusalippit or on Threads @azusalippit.

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