fb-pixel Skip to main content

Back to a type of normal as we can get

After three years of disruption, the Marathon went off on a beautiful Patriots Day.

Dean, left, and Chip Kennedy retired to their late father’s physical therapy clinic in Downtown Crossing after running the Boston Marathon in his memory.Kennedy Family

After three years of infection and disruption, the Boston Marathon took its rightful place on Patriots Day again.

Some 30,000 runners took part. Thousands of Red Sox fans left Fenway Park after the traditional matinee game, spilling into Kenmore Square to catch a glimpse of the runners. It was sunny and seasonally cool. The Kenyans and the Ethiopians battled it out for the top spots.

In other words, it was back to normal, or at least back to as normal we can hope to get.

It was normal that Howard Weinstein was running. It wasn’t normal that Jake Kennedy was not.

Advertisement



Weinstein, a physician who treats children with cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital, ran his 30th Boston Marathon. After long, draining days working with pediatric cancer patients, he goes on long, draining training runs on surgically repaired limbs.

He has used the Marathon to personally raise $1.7 million for the pediatric hematology and oncology center he built and runs. As the founder and captain of the hospital’s Marathon team, he has, over the years, led more than 2,200 runners who have raised more than $18 million for kids with cancer. Some runners on that team were Weinstein’s patients when they were kids.

The money Weinstein raises by running the Marathon pays for the things that insurance doesn’t: art and music therapy that is as important, in its way, to the kids’ treatment as chemo and radiation.

Weinstein, 75 and still running marathons, is a mensch.

Dr. Howard Weinstein with his daughter Becca at Mile 20 of the Boston Marathon on Monday. He has run it 30 times. Heather Peach

So was Jake Kennedy, who was as much a staple at the Marathon as Dave McGillivray and the Hoyts. Kennedy ran 37 Boston Marathons before ALS struck him down. He died two years ago, and the Marathon doesn’t seem the same without him.

Kennedy was a physical therapist by trade and a humanitarian by choice. For 30 years, he and his wife Sparky ran Christmas in the City, a party for homeless children that captures the spirit of that holiday better than anything you can buy in a store.

Advertisement



ALS has devastated Jake Kennedy’s family, killing his father Chris and his brother Jimmy, aka Squirrel. His brother Richard, aka Ratt, was diagnosed with ALS a few years before Jake was and is still fighting it.

Jake Kennedy with his wife, Sparky Kennedy, during an annual Christmas in the City event at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston in 2019.Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

After losing their dad, Jake Kennedy’s kids knew the best way to honor his memory was to run the Marathon that meant so much to him and use it as a vehicle to raise money for research that aims to end the curse that is ALS.

Dean and Chip Kennedy retraced the steps their dad took for 37 consecutive years. While Chip Kennedy is an experienced marathoner, Dean Kennedy, the quarterbacks coach at Holy Cross, had never run one before.

After Jake died, Sparky vowed to raise $1 million for the Jake Kennedy ALS Fund for research. By running on Monday, Dean and Chip pushed them over the halfway mark.

The Kennedy brothers know the research money is in good hands: their brother Zack, a researcher at the UMass Chan Medical School, is working there with the great Dr. Robert Brown to develop the gene therapy that will cure ALS.

Brown has been treating Ratt Kennedy for years. That Ratt Kennedy, amazingly, ran and finished the Marathon on Monday, six years after being diagnosed with ALS, shows the promise in Brown’s work, and the tenacity that is in the Kennedy DNA.

Advertisement



As they did for each of the 37 Marathons Jake Kennedy ran, the Kennedy clan gathered at the 24-mile marker, near Coolidge Corner. Dean Kennedy got emotional when he reached Mile 24.

“When I was 8 years old, my dad picked me up at Mile 24, and I ran the last 2.2 miles with him,” Dean Kennedy said after finishing. “I thought of my dad the whole 26.2 miles, but especially at Mile 24.”

On Monday, Howard Weinstein ran the Marathon while the spirit of Jake Kennedy pushed everybody along.

A new normal, and so, so welcome.



Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at kevin.cullen@globe.com.