Canton native runs solo marathon to benefit vets

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Family and friends congratulate PJ Driscoll at the finish line.

When former Canton resident PJ Driscoll began to train for the New York City Marathon last spring, his goal was to run in the race in order to raise funds for the Pat Tillman Foundation. His plans changed when the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy led to the cancellation of the November 4 race, but it didn’t stop Driscoll from achieving his goal. He simply ran a marathon on his own on the same day.

Driscoll, 25, attended the Hansen School and the Galvin Middle School and went on to Boston College High School. He remembers running during the summers to get in shape for soccer when he was growing up. “I hated every second of it,” he said with a laugh.

His attitude changed when he trained to run in the Boston Marathon as a sophomore at Boston College. “Being able to train for a goal made it really enjoyable,” he said.

When Driscoll decided to run in the NYC Marathon, he knew that he would only do it if he could raise money for a cause that meant something to him. He chose the Pat Tillman Foundation, created in memory of the professional football player who enlisted in the military and was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. Money raised by the foundation is used to provide educational scholarships for military veterans and their spouses.

“Pat Tillman was kind of a hero of mine, giving up an NFL contract,” Driscoll said. “It’s something that has resonated with me since I was a kid. I wanted to give back to military veterans.”

Driscoll, who now lives in the North End and works as a paralegal in Boston, traveled to New York City on November 2 even though there were rumors that the marathon was going to be cancelled. He was in a restaurant that evening when he got a text from a friend asking if he had heard about the marathon. He looked up at a television screen in the restaurant and saw that the race had indeed been called off because of Sandy. That was when he decided to return to Massachusetts and run the route of the Boston Marathon, something he had been thinking of doing.

He called his brother, Matt, and some friends who had been planning to travel to New York and told them he was going home. The next day he took a train back to Boston, and on Sunday morning his cousin drove him to the starting area in Hopkinton. Driscoll began to run to Boston at 9 a.m. expecting to spend the next few hours on his own.

After the first mile, a few of Driscoll’s friends appeared along the side of the road with a sign that said “Run, PJ, Run.” When he got to mile six, his brother and his father, Paul, who has run in several Boston Marathons, joined him and stayed with him for the rest of his run. Every few miles, other friends appeared to cheer him on. When he got to Boston College, 15 to 20 of his friends and extended family were waiting for him.

“It actually took me a little while to figure out what was going on,” Driscoll said. “It made a huge difference to see people. The support was really great. The best part was having my family out there.”

He stopped to talk each time he saw friends and family and to have the snacks they brought him. He finished the course three hours and 33 minutes after he started.

Driscoll met and passed his goal of raising $4,200 through his run. Donations may still be made by going to www.active.com/donate/teamtillmannewyork12/driscoll. Runners who registered for the 2012 NYC Marathon can transfer their registration to a future race. Driscoll plans to run in the 2014 NYC Marathon and he will once again raise funds for the Pat Tillman Foundation.

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avatar Posted by on Jan 17 2013. Filed under Features.

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