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Clara Babbott-Ward racing to the finish line, still smiling 26.1 miles later. Courtesy Photo / Event Photography Group, Inc.

Clara Babbott-Ward racing to the finish line, still smiling 26.1 miles later. Courtesy Photo / Event Photography Group, Inc.

By Grace Wang

Running 26.2 miles is no small accomplishment, and Clara Babbott-Ward managed to do just that alongside her dad Tom Ward with a grin on her face at the 2016 Boston Marathon on April 18.

Already an accomplished varsity athlete with the Wayland-Weston crew team, Babbott-Ward decided to run the Boston Marathon.

“I was really ready to be part of something significantly bigger than myself. The concept of being insignificant to the big picture, yet vital to the process fascinates me,” Babbott-Ward said.

Babbott-Ward has always loved running. Prior to the Boston Marathon, Babbott-Ward has ran half marathons and 5k races to raise money for important causes.

Babbott-Ward said that training for the Boston Marathon has strengthened her already close relationship with her dad.

“The most difficult part of training was probably keeping up with my old but crazy athletic and awesome dad!”

Crew has helped Babbott-Ward both mentally and physically prepare for the marathon. When Babbott-Ward was training for the marathon, she went for five to ten mile runs after crew practice, then a long run ranging anywhere from 11 to 22 miles on the weekend after regattas.

“I was ecstatic to run for the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge team because cancer touches everyone in one way or another. My mom is a survivor (for 7 years and counting). Both of my grandfathers and a grandmother passed away from it. Ask anyone, and they’ll have a story,” Babbott-Ward said. “Before the race, I asked all of my donors to send me a name of a loved one affected by cancer, so I could write their name on the DFMC team singlet that I would wear on race day. It was an honor to carry all of those names with me through the race.”

The most challenging part of the course was the first mile, according to Babbott-Ward.

“It starts with a significant hill going sharply down and with that crazy combo of nerves mixed with adrenaline, it was really difficult to rein it all in and conserve the much needed energy for later on,” Babbott-Ward said.

Because of the cordial atmosphere, Babbott-Ward said it was easy to make friends.

“Everyone is so nice and we all have a mutual understanding of how hard running distance is,” Babbott-Ward said.

With half of a mile remaining in the race, Babbott-Ward patted people on their backs and would say words of encouragement.

“They would smile back and say “you too!” every single time. It makes me smile just thinking about it,” Babbott-Ward said.

Babbott-Ward might have done the training, but her supporters put in a lot of effort as well.

“The crowd was outrageous. I felt like a celebrity. I wrote my name on my singlet and random people of all ages and cultures yelled for me,” Babbott-Ward said. “It was so fun hearing the different accents, from French to English to Spanish and everywhere in between, or the young eager voice of a five year old sounding out C-L-A-R-A in time before I ran by. Whenever I’d realize how much I was hurting and how much my lungs were burning, I would hear “BOSTON STRONG” or “Thank you Dana Farber runner!” and be reminded how little I am to the big picture but how very vital I am to the process.”

Babbott-Ward credits her family for being there every step of the way.

“My family has been awesome. My mom is the best cheerleader out there. A big shoutout to Michael Brown for writing my name on his stomach and taking off his shirt and chasing me screaming my name for about a fourth of a mile down the course in Wellesley,” Babbott-Ward said.

Her favorite part of the course was at the 25 mile mark because she got to meet children who were being treated through the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

“I stopped and hugged a bunch of them and they were beaming up at me and it was just so surreal. There are so many sad things in the world that make me feel helpless but the fact that I could help at least a tiny bit with the future of their treatments means the world to me. I hate just sitting around,” Babbott-Ward said.

Babbott-Ward wants to thank anyone who donated to her or her dad. Together, the father-daughter duo raised well over $20,000 for cancer research.

“Cancer can happen to anyone out there, but anyone out there can help. One dollar, one step, one person at a time,” Babbott-Ward said.

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