By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Region – Running a marathon isn’t for the faint of heart in the best of circumstances. But to run 26 miles, 385 yards in the kind of weather that was thrust upon this year’s Boston Marathon participants was truly extraordinary, requiring intense dedication.
Among those that finished on a day that saw driving rains and heavy winds, was a team of nine people who ran to raise funds for the 15-40 Connection, the Westborough-based nonprofit dedicated to teaching young people how to detect cancer early. This year’s team was their biggest and most successful marathon fundraising effort thus far. They exceeded their goal of $60,000, raising $77,871.
For team member Mike Kotsopoulos, his run was also personal as his father Chris has had a bout with prostate cancer.
A native of Shrewsbury, Kotsopoulos graduated from St. John’s High School in 2013 and Boston College in 2017. The son of Amy and Chris Kotsopoulos of Shrewsbury, he is now an analyst with TJX.
Kotsopoulos’s first exposure to the 15-40 Connection was as a student at St. John’s where he attended a presentation from the organization. There he learned about the importance of knowing, he said, “of understanding your body and understanding what our good felt like and what felt natural to us and when to speak up if sudden changes occurred.”
15-40 goes by the simple rule: if after two weeks the change doesn’t go back to normal then you should speak up and contact your physician.
“It became a lot more real when my dad first went through prostate cancer, which they were able to find very early,” Kotsopoulos said.
Thankfully, after surgery, his father received a clean bill of health.
Although Kotsopoulos claims he was never “really a runner,” he would run to stay in shape. And while studying abroad in Ireland in 2016, he was inspired to run the Tralee International Marathon near the Ring of Kerry.
Coping with the weather in this year’s marathon was trying. The constant rain and the chilly temperatures and then his phone dying complicated an already difficult run. He didn’t have music to run by but he was encouraged by the energy of all the people along the sidelines cheering him on. He was buoyed by seeing his friends and parents along the way.
After making it over Heartbreak Hill, Kotsopoulos said that he became really excited and it was surreal riding a giant wave of emotion coming down Commonwealth Avenue.
“It was very special to see my parents and the people that I had raised money for and seeing everything come to fruition,” he said.
“People are incredibly generous and people near and dear to me really went above and beyond to lend a heart and lend a hand at a time when I was so inexperienced with fundraising,” he noted.
In spite of the lousy weather and limited marathon experience, he finished an impressive 4:48. More importantly he raised nearly $8,000 for a very worthwhile cause.
For more information about the 15-40 Connection, visit www.15-40.org.