MBA student Domingo Godoy never imagined he would run a marathon. The Chilean native was a fervent soccer player, but he had no interest in running long distances. He half-heartedly tried running, but couldn’t relax or stop thinking about schoolwork or other concerns.
“I didn’t feel [the high] runners feel,” Godoy says.
But Godoy surprised himself. On April 21, he will run the 2014 Boston Marathon as part of the MIT Strong team, a group of nearly 40 MIT community members running in memory of Sean Collier, the MIT police officer killed on campus in the days following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
'We knew something was wrong'
Last year, Godoy supported his wife’s uncle, Bernardo Castro, who traveled from Chile to Boston to run the marathon. He even briefly trained with the 60-year-old, who has run many marathons. Indeed, Castro had informed Godoy as soon as Godoy was accepted to MIT that he was going to run Boston. For both men, Boston offered the chance of a lifetime. Castro, who manages a marathon club in Chile, had always dreamed of running Boston, and Godoy, looking for a career change, had set his sights on MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
“It was my only application,” says Godoy. “My first boss was a Sloanie, and I was so impressed by how analytically gifted he was. MIT in Chile has a very, very strong brand.”
Both Godoy and Castro were on track to fulfill their dreams on that sterling day last April. Godoy waited a few blocks from the finish line with his wife, Valentina, and her aunt to see Castro complete the race. Castro crossed the finish line in 3:41:23, and the three spectators started to wind their way toward the family meeting area, where they had planned to meet him. The crowds were intense, so they took the long way around the Prudential Center.
“Once we arrived at Copley Square, I was trying to get closer to the finish line to ask about the family meeting place, and the explosion went off,” Godoy remembered. “We couldn’t see it, but it was super strong. The ground moved, and the buildings moved, and then a few seconds later, the other explosion came, and we knew something was wrong.”
Godoy and the two women walked away from the confused and terrified crowds. No one knew where to go. They walked back to the Midtown Hotel on Huntington Avenue, where many of Castro’s fellow runners from Chile were staying, and waited. They watched the news and Godoy checked Twitter for messages from the other runners. One by one, as they were accounted for, Godoy retweeted the messages for relieved family members and friends back home in Chile.
Finally, after two hours, Castro and a friend arrived safely at the hotel with their medals. They were muddled and had only an inkling of how serious the bombing was. “It was really a confusing moment,” Godoy said.
Three people, including an 8-year-old boy, died in the blasts at the finish line, and 264 more were injured.
Running in memory
Several days later, MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was shot and killed, allegedly by the suspected marathon bombers. Godoy’s friend and former neighbor, Andres Barriga MBA ’13, called Godoy to remind him that Collier had responded to a frightening moment when Barriga’s baby was sick at home a few months earlier.
“I didn’t meet him personally, but my friend kept talking about him and how nice he was,” Godoy said.
That was it for Godoy. With Castro’s encouragement, he took up marathon training with the goal of running the Boston Marathon in 2014.
“This felt so important. I was so overwhelmed by the sense of community during and after the race, especially here at MIT. I was impressed by how strong campus got,” he said.
To prepare, Godoy registered for the New York City Marathon in November and began training while he completed an internship at Sears Holdings in Chicago. He and his wife lived just off the Chicago Lakefront Trail, so every afternoon he logged in the running miles while she sometimes rode her bike alongside him, offering moral support. Rob Nelson MBA ’14 also regularly ran with Godoy, and the two completed their first half-marathon together.
Back on campus in the fall, Godoy continued training. He completed the New York Marathon in 3:49:40, a bit short of the 3:30 time he had hoped for. But he continued to dream about running Boston, and when MIT offered a chance to officially enter the MIT Strong team, he jumped on it. Godoy aims to raise $4,000 for the Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund at MIT. (Donations can be made on his team page.)
Several other MIT Sloan-affiliated runners are also on the team, including Charlie Maher, Jean-Paul Lauture, and Jeremy Rishel, all students in the MIT Executive MBA program. To see their stories, visit the MIT Strong Marathon team page.
The MIT Strong team members started training together in February. They meet at 7:30 a.m. each Tuesday to run the indoor track at the Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center.
Working with volunteer coach Jane Wojcik, a network manager at the MIT Media Lab, Godoy has already learned techniques that will enhance his run. “Jane has taught me that I have to put a lot into my long runs,” he says. “She gave me some tips, and she crushed a lot of myths that I had about marathon training.” Godoy added that the last six miles of the New York marathon were among the worst moments of his life, and he’d like to avoid that agony when he runs Boston. He’s now running about six miles a day each week and between 15 and 20 miles on the weekends.
Although Godoy is also racing to finish his MBA this year, he said the marathon training has helped him focus and organize his time. He wakes up at 6 a.m. to run (“In this cold, you wake up fast,” he says of the Boston winter) and is on campus by 8:30 a.m. each day. He and his wife plan to stay in Boston for at least another year. She will complete a graduate degree at Boston College, and he will open a branch of his brother’s Chile-based software startup.
Bernardo Castro now offers advice and inspiration from Chile, and is already talking about joining Godoy to run the Chicago Marathon together later this year. It’s something Godoy, the soccer player who never considered a marathon, is seriously considering. “Why not?” he asks. “Maybe I’ll get the qualifying time for Boston 2015.”