Sean Cavanaugh

When I was a kid, it was hard to understand that the rest of the world didn’t celebrate Patriots’ Day. I understood that it was a second or third tier holiday—closer to Presidents’ Day and Arbor Day than Christmas or the 4 th of July. Nonetheless, it never occurred to me that some kid in Ohio or California wasn’t waking up to a local-news station b-shot reel of the Revolutionary reenactment in Lexington and Concord, then jumping into mom’s station wagon to drive to the course to watch runners pour by, only to come home and catch the last few innings of the Sox game. That day—that morning really—is a part of who we are in Massachusetts—it’s unique to us and has always felt quaint and comfortable. When I moved to Ashland 16 years ago and started raising my family here, I lived on Pleasant St. a half a mile down the road from the original starting line of the Boston Marathon, the place it all began in 1897. My wife Sarah and I would take all three of our kids, Nate (16), Adah (11), and Norah (8) to Rt. 135 across from the Telechron building and the old Dairy Queen to yell and cheer on runners until we were horse and the kids’ hands were sore from high fives. The race has been a special event for all of us and living in Ashland made it even more special. I had always seen distance running as a means to an end because I’m a big dude. As a kid, I was in the back row of every picture; people use me as a shield in rain and snowstorms; I’m asked weekly if I know I’m tall; and folks groan when I sit in front of them at the movie theater. I also played sports and excelled in large part because of my size. I ran to train. I didn’t love it, but it was a necessary evil. I joked that I’d never voluntarily run again when I finished playing college football. But I did. I jogged every now and then to lose weight and to be healthy, and I trained for a couple 5ks. But I never considered myself a runner. 

The year prior to the pandemic, we bought a treadmill with a big video screen—the type in which you can run alongside a trainer. One of the first runs I tried on the machine was at the Boston Marathon filmed a few years ago. I chose it because of how I feel about Patriots’ Day. I remember having to slow the pace way down. Here’s the thing: I still enjoyed it. As the trainer got into Ashland, I saw some friends and neighbors scattered in the crowd. And as the trainer pushed through town, it occurred to me that she was running on the same side that I and the kids were on. And sure enough, I watched myself and my daughter across from the Telechron building when the trainer pushed past us. I was looking the other way, and I don’t think my daughter was able to give her a high five, but at that moment, on my treadmill, it dawned on me that I wanted to run this race for real. It propelled me to train on that treadmill throughout the pandemic, but running Boston always felt so unattainable until I learned of the entry lottery. I lost the initial drawing but as fate would have it, I was first on the waitlist. I feel so lucky to be chosen to run this year.

Running the Boston Marathon is a full circle moment for me. I’m proud and grateful to run for Ashland—a town that has given me so much. I’m proud that I can help raise money for the BAA Grant program that will be put towards Ashland’s Special Programs and Social Services. I am confident that running through Ashland past that spot where I saw myself and my daughter cheering on the runners would be nothing less than a celebration of all that has brought me to where I am now. I can’t wait to give high fives until my hand hurts and hear my own kids cheer me on from across from the Telechron building.