104.8. That’s how many times a person has to run around a track to complete a marathon. It’s also the number of laps a group of Soccer Without Borders Boston participants and community members completed in Boston on Sunday, Nov 1.
Soccer Without Borders Boston traditionally fields a team of runners in the New York City Marathon. With the cancellation of this year’s event due to the pandemic, coach Caitlin Saupe brought a team of runners together for their own “Stronger Together” marathon. The diverse group of participants represented every part of the Boston program: players from each team, coaches, advisory board members, parents and community supporters. And everyone, no matter their age or experience with running, contributed laps to the tally.
“It felt like a pretty powerful, unifying experience,” reflected Saupe, who also ran in the event.
The day began and ended as all Soccer Without Borders practices do, with an opening and closing circle. Runners introduced themselves to everyone, and throughout the day were encouraged to meet someone new. At the end, a microphone was passed around as participants introduced a new friend that they had met to the whole group.
The event was set up with five stations: running, cheering/recovery, warm up, team building, and soccer. Each group rotated through the five, contributing to the running tally while getting to know new friends and supporting others. The day was emblematic of the strong community that has been forged in Boston, and the commitment to maintaining that community, even as folks grapple with a global pandemic and its many isolating impacts.
The marathon aimed to celebrate the diverse paths that our community members take to arrive in Boston, often migrating from near and far. In the lead-up to the day, runners shared their stories and the number of miles they migrated to call Boston home. Jasmin Jalali-Yazdi’s family had left Algeria for France, and then moved across three continents before arriving in Boston. Tania del Rio traveled 2,227 miles to call Boston home, now as a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Mexico City. Giorgio Valsecci traveled 3,829 miles from his small hometown in Italy, after his company transferred him to Boston. Yesenia, mother of an SWB Boston participant, came to Boston from El Salvador in search of safety and to reunite with her family. Yajaira, also originally from El Salvador, was running in an athletic event for the first time since tearing her ACL over two years ago.
"The marathon gave a sense of relief to the ones who attended because of Coronavirus," Yajaira said. "Many families have been deeply affected and our event gave them the freedom to enjoy themselves in these hard times. Also, families and students were able to play together which is something that gives a great example of community no matter, color, age, race, etc. We see the impact when the community is together."
In the end, a community came together to complete its own 26.2 mile marathon. Each runner contributed not only toward the 104.8 laps, but also to the fabric of culture and diverse experiences that makes our community stronger.