Chris Vasquez thought Monday’s symbolic Patriots Day Mile run with 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden would be a casual occurrence: a quick hello, a few pictures, and maybe even a souvenir T-shirt.
But when Vasquez and the four other front-line workers and community members chosen for the inaugural event jogged across the Boylston Street finish line, Linden had a surprise. She awarded each of them an invitation to run in this fall’s 125th Boston Marathon on Oct. 11.
“It means the world to me, honestly,” said Vasquez, a member of the Pioneers Run Crew in Dorchester. “I was definitely blindsided.
“We were told we would meet Des and she would give us a surprise. I was thinking a T-shirt or sneakers and that they were going to raffle off one bid. It turns out we all got one. I’m going to cherish this moment and train my butt off.”
Monday marked the second straight Patriots Day without the Marathon and the of thousands of spectators who line Boylston Street to watch friends and family complete the 26.2-mile race. However, Linden said the event made her feel optimistic about a return to normalcy in the near future. It also capped an exciting week for the two-time Olympian.
Last Tuesday, Linden set a world record in the 50K, running the 31.06-mile race in Eugene, Ore., in 2:59:54. She threw out a ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park on Sunday.
Then on Monday, after completing the mile run with the five front-line workers and community members, Linden announced she will be joining them in running the Boston Marathon this fall.
Linden, who has five top-five finishes in seven career Bostons, is the first member of the John Hancock Professional Athlete Team to commit to the race.
“I’ve fallen in love with this race and I’m always excited to be here,” said Linden. “I was just waiting for the opportunity to announce it because my schedule always lines up to be ready to run Boston. I’m thrilled to be back and get that out there.”
Lindsay Devers, a nurse anesthetist at Massachusetts General Hospital, gained fame last Patriots Day when she ran her first marathon on her own and attempted to spell “Boston Strong” on her fitness app’s GPS. But when she crossed the finish line, she realized an “N” was missing from her path.
Devers was named to the 2020 Honorary Boston Marathon team and was celebrated Monday for her front-line service working in Mass. General’s COVID-19 ICU unit this past year. She said getting the opportunity to run the marathon this fall brings a feeling of redemption, especially after a year of professional challenges.
“It feels really great to be given this opportunity by the BAA,” said Devers. “To represent the city of Boston and health-care workers is awesome.
“Running was such a great outlet for me after work, to go hit the streets and lose your mind in the music and the miles. To be honest, it felt like such a huge relief. After not being able to run the real marathon, this kind of feels like things are getting back to normal and it brings a sense of hope.”
Joining Vasquez and Devers as invitees to this fall’s race are Rochelle Solomon, a compliance officer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Jessie Chen, who recently organized the #StopAsianHate relay along the marathon route; and Dorothy Anderson, a member of the Massachusetts National Guard since 2007.
Linden reminded the group they already have the skills required to run the marathon.
“I think they have all the keys and tools with perseverance, tenacity, and grit,” said Linden. “Those are what it takes to run this course. They also have busy lives, so I remind them to train properly. I think as long as you put in the work, you’re going to thrive on this course.”
BAA president and CEO Tom Grilk acknowledged it was odd to be at the finish line Monday with no marathon being held, but said that as each day passes, the likelihood of an October race increases. He said the plan is to have 20,000 people run in Boston and another 10,000-plus run virtually.
The BAA also announced Monday the extension of its partnership with Adidas through the end of the decade.
“To have a measure of certainty in a period of time that has been marked by uncertainty is very gratifying,” Grilk said. “We look forward to the fall, and our job is to do our part in the reopening of society and the economy in a safe way.
“Unless something changes badly, we have every hope and all optimism that in October the Boston Marathon for the 125th time will be run right here.”