- Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
On Monday, April 17, Sowmya Sundararajan, a vocational rehabilitation unit supervisor for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), will join thousands of runners for the 127th Boston Marathon. This will mark her first time running from Hopkinton to Boston, but not her first marathon. In 2015 and 2016, she finished four marathons in Cape Cod, Providence, Maine, and New York. Now in her late 40s, she loves running just as much as she did as a student.
Running the Boston Marathon, or any marathon, isn’t an easy decision. But, as a woman who had run four marathons in the past, Sowmya saw the challenge as a cathartic moment. “It occurred to me as I watched the marathon last year that this will be a great closure point,” she explained. “I wanted to do something different with my life, from here on. It’s a chance for me to celebrate myself and my relationship with my son.”
She began searching for a running club in Boston that was accepting and supportive of all runners. In April 2022, she joined The Boston Bulldogs Running Club. Established in 2015, they provide an anonymous and safe community of support for all those adversely affected by addiction, those in recovery, their families and friends, caregivers, the clinical community, healthcare and wellness professionals, and the community. “I was looking for a group where I could meet people and run together,” Sowmya shared. “At MRC, we work with many clients who struggle with substance use – and I thought this would be a great resource to offer them. Plus, it would also allow me to be a resource for people in the group.”
The Bulldogs were exactly what she was looking for. She describes them as kind, empathetic, and supportive of all runners regardless of age or skill level. Last Fall, they shared that they would be accepting applications to run with the group in the Boston Marathon, and it was Sowmya’s son who encouraged her to apply. The team has a coach who helps each individual and the group prepare for the grueling 26-mile run. “They understand when you’re going through a slump, and I find it easy to reach out to others when I’m feeling stuck.”
While the Boston Marathon is her immediate goal, running has always been a release for Sowmya. She loves how it’s an outlet for her to manage her life challenges. “It’s freeing. If I’m having a bad day or I don’t feel like myself, it’s nice to go out there and just run,” she said. “It’s helpful for me to help shift my attitude or challenges. There’s something about running that doesn’t fix my problems, but I feel a level of comfort that I don’t get with anything else.”
While she doesn’t know how long it will take her to complete the race, she knows that no matter what, she will finish. And she’ll be surrounded by a team that has welcomed her, and she looks toward them for inspiration. “I’m impressed and inspired by my team members who have had a past with substance issues. One can learn a lot from them about their perseverance and recovery. I find them so inspiring.”
On Patriot’s Day, her sister from India and her son will be a part of the crowd clapping and supporting her to press on to the finish. But she won’t necessarily be thinking about herself at that moment. She’ll be thinking about those that surround her. “It’s beautiful because everyone who runs has a story. No one is perfect, but we’re all looking for something to change. Whenever I see someone running, I wonder, ‘What could be their story?’”