By Andrew Yourell, Sports Editor
Two years ago on April 15, the city of Boston suffered when Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placed pressure cooker bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The attacks killed three and wounded many more, but only served to bring the city of Boston—indeed the entire New England community—closer together.
This Monday, April 20, a different pair of brothers will be making their mark on the Boston Marathon. Greg Laudani, a junior staff writer here at TNH, and his older brother will be running the marathon together.
The marathon made national news on Jan. 27, during one of this winter’s biggest snowstorms, when a photo posted to Twitter by Philip Hillman showed a mystery man shoveling off the marathon finish line. The man in the picture is none other than Chris Laudani, Greg’s 26-year old brother.
“My brother is like, he’s one of those people that you wish was your brother. He’s that cool guy that you just wish you could be part of your family,” said Greg, a journalism major at UNH. “He’s the most amazing kid in my life, like he’s—he does stuff like that [clearing the finish line] all the time. When he shoveled the finish line, he didn’t think anything of it.”
While Chris didn’t think too much about shoveling off the finish line, his younger brother was impressed.
“He’s not a hero for shoveling the finish line,” Greg said. “It’s a kind act, it symbolizes how people feel and the connection of the city to the race. What he did, I thought it was pretty special.”
But news outlets disagreed, labeling Chris as a Boston hero, and that’s when the attention on the Laudani family really heated up.
Greg began receiving phone calls from NBC, The Tonight Show and others interested in bringing Chris out to New York. Chris, Greg says, isn’t great with communication, and hadn’t gotten back to them. So they began calling on Greg and his mother to get through to Chris.
For the Boston bartender, the attention was something that hadn’t ever crossed his mind when he set out to shovel the finish line, according to Greg. Chris’s explanation, given in an interview with CNN affiliate WCVB, was simple.
“It’s very special to me and to the city, and I didn’t think it deserved to be covered under all that snow,” he said in the interview.
Chris started running the Boston Marathon when he was in college, and has run every year since 2010. Greg’s first time joining his brother was in 2013—the same year the Tsarnaev brothers attacked the race.
“I hadn’t finished yet, I was turning onto Boylston Street when it happened, so they had already blocked the street off. So I was past the 26-mile marker,” Greg said.
While he didn’t see much of the attack, he mentioned that he and his brother were separated during the race.
“In 2013 we ran together for the first 18 miles, but then we got separated at Heartbreak [Hill],” Greg said. “So then last year we ran the whole thing together because we didn’t want to get separated again, you know, after all that. Just never wanted to run it separately.”
Greg shows enthusiasm when he talks about running. He says his brother is the one responsible for getting Greg involved in running the Boston Marathon two years ago. “Whenever I’m feeling stressed, I just think about the marathon last year,” Greg said.
The 2014 marathon was, in his words, “literally the best experience of my life.”
According to Greg, community was the chief reason for getting into marathons, but he said that the 2014 marathon blew his and Chris’ other experiences out of the water.
“After everything that had happened, and after the city had lost so much, just the people that had died and just the families that have suffered since, and just grief and recovery, people that have had to pay endless medical bills to help their families recover,” he said, “it was just amazing to see the fans. There were more people out there than ever before. It was just unlike anything I had ever seen.”
In 2013 and 2014, Greg ran unofficially. The Boston Marathon is one of the few marathons to allow unregistered runners, but this year will mark Greg’s first official running of the Boston Marathon.
“Adidas gave us free entry, because after my brother shoveled the finish line, they gave him an entry, and he asked Adidas for a second one. And so they gave me one, too,” Greg said.
Entering the Boston Marathon can be a daunting task. There are two ways to enter as an official runner. The first is to run a qualifying time at another race, which for Chris and Greg’s age bracket, requires finishing a marathon in less than three hours and five minutes. The other option is to register with a charity, a process that draws thousands of potential runners each year.
“In order to do that, most charities require at least a $5,000 fundraising minimum. It’s a lot of money, and for a college student—like, I don’t know what $5,000 looks like,” Greg joked.
Even though the brothers’ free entry means they do not have to fundraise, the duo decided to try and raise money for the Arredondo Family Foundation.
Arredondo’s charity supports military families suffering the loss of a loved one, and is also trying to raise awareness and education on suicide prevention.
Carlos Arredondo, the foundation’s founder, is the famous ‘man in the cowboy hat’ from the 2013 marathon. After the explosions, Arredondo jumped into action, helping Jeff Bauman, one of the survivors who lost both legs during the attack.
Arredondo lost his eldest son, Alex, in the Iraq War in 2004. His other son, Brian, never fully recovered from Alex’s death, and Arredondo lost a second son in 2011 to suicide.
The foundation seeks to ensure that grieving families never again have to experience the loss of a mourning loved one to suicide, instead trying to help families through the grieving process by providing support. According to its website, arredondofoundation.org, the foundation is “For those who mourn, for those who sacrifice, for those who dream.”
“We’re not technically running for them, but we just wanted to help them fundraise because they’re great people and it’s an awesome cause,” Greg said.
To fundraise, Chris started a GoFundMe account in February, with a $7,500 goal. Greg says that the GoFundMe has raised $1,700 in addition to what the brothers have donated themselves.
“I wouldn’t have been involved with the marathon at all if it weren’t for [Chris], because, you know, when he started running I saw all the energy at the marathon, all the people, the whole community is out there supporting runners, and supporting each other. And I just saw how special it is,” Greg said.
As long as his knee allows him, Greg plans to continue running marathons, with Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago on the list. But for the Boxford, Massachusetts, native and his brother, Boston will always be home.
“It was just a blessing that we could run with Adidas and then we ended up being able to raise money for the Arredondo Family Foundation,” Greg said. “I can’t wait to get out there.”
The 119th Boston Marathon will kick off on Monday, April 20, at 8:50 a.m. Chris, Greg, and other local runners will join the elite marathoners in a tradition that continues to help the city heal.
To help Chris and Greg reach their fundraising goal, visit http://www.gofundme.com/c_arredondo. #BostonStrong