My name is Hannah, I’m a senior at Harvard, and I’m thrilled to say I’ll be running the Boston Marathon this spring as part of the Boston Public Library Team. I’m running to raise money for the city’s wonderful public library system and its afterschool education programs for local children. But I’m also running for personal reasons.
I was recruited in high school to play soccer at Harvard, fulfilling a lifelong dream. I played for the women’s varsity team for two years and in 2016 we won the Ivy League, marking one of the proudest moments of my life.
It was also one of the lowest moments of my life. A few weeks before the end of the season, we discovered the Harvard men’s soccer team had for years produced annual, sexually explicit “scouting” reports that ranked incoming classes of female soccer recruits on their physical attractiveness and guessed the sexual position each woman would favor. It confirmed my worst fears to learn my male peers were rating my teammates and me on our bodies.
I left the team a couple months later, in part to pursue other extracurricular opportunities on campus. After I quit soccer — which I’d played since I was five — I tried to keep exercising. But the joy I used to find in sweaty late-night sprints and long, lazy Sunday jogs leached out. Every time I stepped outside in my athletic clothes and started jogging, I became hyper-conscious of my body. I couldn’t help imagining I was being watched. Judged.
I began to go on shorter runs. Then I began to run less often. One day midway through junior year, I stopped running entirely. The summer before I left for college, I’d promised I would compete in the Boston Marathon before I graduated. That goal seemed to be slipping away. So, one day this summer, I forced myself out the door. I forced my knees to rise to the beat in my earphones. I forced myself past the eyes of strangers.
The first runs were painful, short, and laborious. But I persisted. Slowly, I upped mileage. I upped pace. I gained muscle — and self-confidence.
The Boston Public Library proved a key inspiration for me. When I was at my lowest, I would visit the McKim building on weekends to seek solace, losing myself for hours at a time in my schoolwork, the murals of the Chavannes gallery, the soft green warmth of the Bates Hall desk lamps. Nowadays, I plan out most of my running routes so I finish at the McKim building steps. The library was — and is — a safe harbor.
I know firsthand how the city’s library serves Bostonians in likely and unlikely ways. I feel honored to be running on behalf of a place that helped me regain health and inner strength.
I hope you consider making a donation.
Trustees of the Public Library of the City of Boston wrote:
Boston Public Library has a Central Library, twenty-five branches, map center, business library, and a website filled with digital content and services. Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library has pioneered public library service in America. It was the first large free municipal library in the United States, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children’s room. Each year, the Boston Public Library hosts thousands of programs and serves millions of people. All of its programs and exhibitions are free and open to the public. At the Boston Public Library, books are just the beginning. To learn more, visit bpl.org.