Chris Herren’s Project: Running the Boston Marathon

A sign congratulating the runners of the 2014 Boston Marathon on Boylston Street near the finish line.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images


( has been chronicling the tales of more than two dozen people affected by the bombings at last year’s marathon. This is our final installment. Read their stories.)

Every year, through its Non-Profit Program, John Hancock donates hundreds of entries in the Boston Marathon to charities all across New England. And given the tragic events at last year’s marathon, there is more interest in running this year’s race.

So for Chris Herren, whose foundation, The Herren Project, received four bibs for the event, the opportunity to be included among the 36,000 participants on Monday was one he couldn’t pass up — even if the former Boston College and Boston Celtics guard has never been one for running, himself.

“I just figured that, as someone who has his name on it, I should give it a shot — that I should run it and jump in with both feet,” said Herren, whose journey to sobriety has become a source of inspiration for thousands. “We’re raising a good amount of money and it’s going to a great cause.”

Chris Herren is running for a cause.

Joining Herren on the 26.2-mile run will be Kevin Mikolazyk, the president of The Herren Project, Pamela Hogue, a flight attendant from Chicago who was offered the opportunity to run as part of an online write-in contest, and Gabriel Torres, a childhood friend of Herren’s. As of Friday, the team had raised more than $46,000 for the Herren Project, which provides assistance to those seeking recovery from addiction.

Herren spends much of his time on the road, speaking at schools across the country, and one of The Herren Project’s initiatives, Project Purple, provides substance abuse awareness to kids and promotes a sober lifestyle and good decision making. “It’s breaking down the stigma in general,” Herren said. “It’s making it acceptable (to be sober). It’s creating awareness and conversation and trying to take the shame out of the addiction.”

One might expect that Herren, as a one-time professional athlete, would be prepared for the rigors of marathon training. But the 38-year-old describes training for the marathon as “one of the most challenging things I’ve done.” Complicating matters further has been the weather over the last few months — a brutal winter making training even more challenging for a first-time marathoner.

“I joke that it’s like the marathon monster is following me all over the country,” Herren said. “I went to Fayetteville, Ark., (in late March), and I was so excited that I was getting out of the snow, and when I landed, it was snowing in Fayetteville. It’s been difficult, so I’m not as prepared as I’d like to be, but at the end of the day, you’ve just got to finish.”

In his training, Herren ran shorter bursts during the week and long hauls on the weekends and logged a single-run best of 15 miles. He said he hopes the adrenaline on race day carries him the rest of the way to the finish line.

Boston Marathon Tribute

“I don’t see how it couldn’t, to be honest with you,” Herren said. “With this year being so special and the amount of people who are participating and the people who will be on the sidelines on the street, I’m hoping that that will take my mind off how my body’s feeling. If I can go out and run 15 miles by myself with no crowd, I’m hoping that those last few miles will be given to me by the rush of the crowd.”

And when he does cross the finish line, just over a year after the attacks at the 2013 race, the Fall River, Mass., native Herren said he expects to be overcome with emotion.

“I don’t think you can do justice by putting it into words,” Herren said. “It’s emotion that I can’t explain because what families have had to deal with because of what happened last year is something that I can’t speak on. All I know is I can do my best and run it proudly on behalf of those people who suffered. It will be the most special Boston Marathon in history, and to be part of that is amazing.”