Marathon Monday, John Hancock, and the Massage Therapy Foundation

Posted:Monday, April 20, 2020

By Mary White, LMT

Mary White with 2019 Team MTF Runners.

It’s strange for me to be sitting here at home writing this blog on what was supposed to be, “Marathon Monday.” For 24 years I have been working at the Boston Marathon® on Patriots’ Day so this year is a bit of an anomaly for me.

I grew up in Limerick, Ireland, where distance running has always been a spectator sport for us. We loved going to local races and cheering for everyone. You can imagine the excitement when a neighbor of ours—Neil Cusack—won the Boston Marathon® in 1974! I was only 9 years old at the time; but I totally understood that this was a major feat (even in a time when there was no sponsorship or prize money for the athletes). Needless to say, when I came to the U.S. in the 1980’s I had to go and watch the Boston Marathon®. It was so exhilarating in 1988 to watch Ibrahim Hussein and Juma Ikangaa push the pace and go on to finish first and second.

In 1996—the 100th running of the Boston Marathon®—I performed post-event massage for Coach Bill Squires’ athletes along with my colleague Doreen Rossi. Coach had trained a team from John Hancock, many of whom were running their first marathon. That day, in April 1996, was the start of my relationship with John Hancock and the Boston Marathon®.

John Hancock Elite Athlete Massage Team (left to right): Anna Gammal, Mary White, Joe Frazer, Doreen Rossi.

I now coordinate the massage therapy team for the John Hancock elite athlete team at the Boston Marathon®. A team of four, we work with 40 to 50 athletes from the day they arrive in town until they leave. John Hancock was ahead of the curve—back in the late 80’s—paying for a sports massage team to serve their athletes. They have always cared deeply about the athletes and see the value massage therapy brings to the sport. As a result, they continue to retain a massage therapy team each year for the marathon.

It was this respect for the field of massage therapy that got me thinking—back in 2012—that if John Hancock believes so strongly in the benefits of massage therapy perhaps they would consider sponsorship for the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF). They did not disappoint. Along with longtime MTF volunteer, Cliff Korn, I met with Robert Friedman, President of John Hancock Sports and Event Marketing. We explained what MTF was about—funding research, education, and community service initiatives for the MT profession. Rob very kindly directed us to apply to the John Hancock Marathon Non-Profit Program, which provides Boston Marathon® bibs to select non-profit organizations as a fundraising opportunity. That first year, we were thrilled to be awarded three charity bibs to raise money for MTF.

Our first three runners ran in 2013, an incredibly sad year for Boston. Three lives were lost on race day following the bombings and another later in the week. Many who were spectators on that tragic day now live with prosthetics and have overcome other injuries. We continue to honor and remember that day each year on One Boston Day.

Since that first year in 2013, 24 athletes have now run the Boston Marathon® for Team MTF, hailing from 18 states and raising $459,144 in funds to provide scientific research, educational resources, and community service grants to special populations that are in vital need of positive touch.

Once again in 2020, Team MTF #RunningForResearch has been invited to participate in the 124th Boston Marathon®. Due to COVID-19, the event will not take place on Patriot’s Day; but the team will still run with thousands of runners on the rescheduled date of Monday, September 14, 2020. I wish them all the best with their training and fundraising and thank them for taking on this milestone task on behalf of the massage therapy profession.

Learn more about MTF’s 2020 #RunningForResearch team: