March 30, 2006 • Volume 14 Number 14
More Than a Race
BC senior joins those who run the Boston Marathon in memory of a loved one - and to help make a difference in the lives of others
In the course of training for this year's Boston Marathon Boston College senior Laura Little will burn through several pairs of running shoes, cover dozens of miles each week, spend hours cross-training in the gym and load up on plenty of carbohydrates.
But through all of that, she'll keep one person in mind: Dad.
"Training becomes an everyday part of your life and because I'm running in memory of my father it's been an emotional experience," said Little, a biology major from Manalapan, NJ.
Bradley Little died last May at the age of 54 from lung cancer. He was an avid sports fan and never smoked a cigarette in his life, says Laura, who has turned his struggle into her own as she prepares to run the 26.2 mile race in support of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Little is one of many in the BC community who run the Boston Marathon in support of a cause, charity, service agency or other organization [see related story].
Her father was under care of physicians at Sloan-Kettering who, she says, offered him much more than just treatment for the disease.
"They really put him at ease and made him more comfortable while offering some hope," said Little. "The difficult part about lung cancer is that there is no early detection test. By the time they find anything it's usually too late."
The difficulties of detecting some cancers, says Little, means that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the fight against cancer while researchers develop both treatments and study preventative measures. She says it is astounding how many others are also affected by this disease.
"It's much more prevalent than you would think," said Little, recalling the struggles of the late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings and actress and activist Dana Reeve.
A long distance runner in high school, Little says her father made it to nearly every one of her track and cross country meets in high school. As she left competitive sports behind and moved on to college, her father became a BC Eagles fan.
"He'd cut out articles about BC sports from the papers and save them for me when I came home. Because my father loved sports so much I cannot think of a better way to honor his memory than to run for him."
Bradley Little was diagnosed with cancer in August of 2004, just as Laura was preparing to leave home to begin her junior year at BC. At the time, she had made plans to run the 2005 marathon in support of the BC Campus School. Laura's parents and older sister had already made reservations so that they could come to Boston and cheer her on.
However, in his weakened condition Bradley was unable to make the five-hour trip. He died a month later.
"I know he knew I was running the marathon and would have wanted to be there if he could," she said. "So I'm going to do this for him."
Coincidentally, during last year's marathon she came across other runners supporting Sloan-Kettering.
"I knew then that I would run for Sloan-Kettering this year, although I thought I would be running in support of my father, not in his memory," she said.
The Sloan-Kettering team is known as "Fred's Team" and is named in honor of Fred Lebow, who helped found the New York Marathon and was a patient at the cancer treatment center.
As she keeps her father's memory in the forefront, Little says she is also moved by those who continue to struggle with cancer, including two friends at BC, one who lost a parent to the disease and another whose mother is currently undergoing treatment.
"It has meant a lot to have so much support from people who have been through some of the same things," said Little. "I think that by running I can spread hope and inspiration for those families who have suffered a loss and those who are fighting to be cancer survivors."