The alarm starts wailing at 4:45 a.m. The world outside Megan Fox-Kelly’s Shrewsbury Cape is quiet, still cloaked in darkness, and a biting 32 degrees.
Her body is in shock after being pulled from a cozy bed. Yet she laces up her sneakers and heads out the door. The chill is enough to snap even the bleariest eyes awake.
Running is hard. It requires effort, and blisters are guaranteed. But there is a reason that Fox-Kelly ’99 and her best friend, Emily Rauer Davis ’99, pound the pavement until their legs hurt. The Holy Cross chaplains, who have known each other since their freshman year of college, are running the Boston Marathon April 17 to benefit Boston Children’s Hospital. For them, the long run is about more than just meeting milestones. Both women have children who benefit from services there.
“The incredible staff at Boston Children’s hospital has not only taken care of our children, but has taken care of our entire families really well,” Fox-Kelly says. “When you’re going through something that is scary and uncertain, it’s everything to know you have people giving their all to make sure you and your family are OK. Being able to give back a little something to that feels really good.”
Fox-Kelly has three children: Kieran, 9, Sean, 6, and Conor, 4. Kieran was born with bilateral clubfeet, a condition that one in 1,000 children are born with each year. Kieran had to wear a cast from his toes to his hips that needed to be replaced each week during infancy. While the procedures seemed to help over time, Kieran relapsed when he was 6. Over the past couple of years, he’s had surgeries on both feet, the most recent one in November.
Fox-Kelly ran the Boston Marathon last year to support Boston Children’s Hospital, helping to raise $6,800. After Kieran’s surgery in November, he asked, “You’re going to run it again, right Mommy?”
Fox-Kelly laughs. Running a marathon is grueling work. But her third one will be a charm because her best friend will be by her side.
Davis has two sons, Michael, 7, and Peter, 4. Peter was born with Down syndrome and a vascular condition that improperly shunted the blood flowing through his body and put stress on his heart.
“Everyone has a story for why they’re running,” Davis says. “Before we start every long run, two or three people from our group tell the story of who they’re dedicating their run to that day. Some are stories of real loss, some are about hope and healing. You never know what people are carrying until they voice it. It’s another humbling reminder of how precious and fragile life is, and the need and desire to celebrate it. Every day we’re able to do that is something I’ve taken away from this whole experience.”
When you run for Boston Children’s Hospital, each runner is assigned a patient partner. Fox-Kelly and Davis are assigned each other’s children. Kieran, who is now out of his cast, plans on playing baseball this spring. Peter enjoys weekly swimming lessons and might take up soccer later this year.
Mother, nurse, teacher, friend. On the road, labels fade away. You become a raw human being, heart pumping, pushing forward, nothing but your own two legs moving you.
Mile after mile, up hills, in the wind and through the snow. Fox-Kelly and Davis put faith in each other, and the payoff is heightened by the power of two. Their friendship is a long and winding road that began more than 20 years ago as college students.
“Holy Cross gave us an incredible gift,” Fox-Kelly explains. “The mission of the school is rooted in a faith that does justice and that has impacted the way I view the world around me and how I try to live my life.”
Following their graduation in ’99, the two friends enrolled in the same graduate program, where they met their future husbands. Fox-Kelly’s husband, Marty, works in the same office as his wife and Davis on campus. Davis’ husband, Andrew, is an assistant professor at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, where the couples originally met.
For both women, continuing their clinical pastoral education to become chaplains and give something back to the Holy Cross community, which they say gave them the “greatest gift,” felt as natural as slipping into a pair of running shoes.
Much like a cheering crowd along an arduous marathon route, Fox-Kelly and Davis say their Jesuit education demands engagement in the world around them, leads them into new ways of knowing and believing, and ultimately helps push them over the finish line.
“It’s a privilege to be able to accompany students today as they strive to discern where God is calling them and how they are being called to live their lives,” Fox-Kelly says.
Fox-Kelly and Davis’s friendship goes far beyond running but for now, it is the run that binds them. It’s why you’ll find them on the road at 4:30 a.m., when most of us are still peacefully curled up in our beds.
The support from the Holy Cross community always serves as a reminder of how lucky they are. On Valentine’s Day, students volunteered to help the women sell grilled cheeses and managed to raise around $900 for Boston Children’s Hospital.
“I’ve never seen so much grilled cheese,” says Davis, who started working at Holy Cross a few years ago. “Whether you’re a student or a returning student, being on campus always feels like coming home.”
Make no mistake. Running a marathon is a painstaking process. But it’s much more than a long run. They take on 26.2 miles to nurture friendships, to overcome the demons in their heads that tell them they can’t, and to support the people in their lives who matter most.
“Peter taught me to be present, to live in the present as much as possible,” Davis says. “He is a very joyful kid. For both of us, the commitment to run a marathon for an organization that helps so many is an amazing opportunity. Even when our legs start hurting, the goal is always in sight.”
Fox-Kelly and Davis were featured in Worcester News Tonight’s coverage of individuals preparing to run the Boston Marathon. Watch the clip below:
Written by Rita Savard
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