8 runners take on the 2014 Boston Marathon

dawn castillo harper

The Next Bad Ass Thing

I ran the greatest 26.2 miles on this planet seven days ago. This finish line that started out as a 30-before-30 goal ended up becoming a 2-year journey that unknowingly would change my life.

The day after the marathon, a friend asked me how I was feeling; my response: “pretty sad, actually.” She said, I get it; you just accomplished a really bad-ass thing and now you are thinking, well, what next?  My friend directed me to this article about the astronauts who were depressed after traveling to the moon.  Wow, yeah, what do you do after that?

For me, it was those “what’s next” feelings on top of all of the build up to get to 4.21.14; running, the marathon, everything about it, had become my life, and now I don’t have that anymore.

So, this past week was tough for me for all those reasons. I had a lot to process emotionally on top of ridiculously sore quads.

The conclusion:  There is a lifetime of what’s next. What’s the next bad-ass thing to do. This training season, the last 2-years will forever be inside me and NO ONE, NOT A SOUL, could ever know what that feels like inside me and, more importantly, take those feelings away from me. I know that those feelings will never be shaken. And I love that; this jam is something I can live with.

And not only that, but, I learned that I am crazy loved by some many people. Crazy loved. I’ve had moments with each of my special friends and family members leading up to the marathon that I will never forget. And this year, post-race, I had messages from friends and family on every form of communication and every mode of social media. But this time, it was messages of joy and accomplishment: “You did it!” But the truth is: “WE DID IT!”  Everyone played a roll leading up to Marathon Monday and I will never forget you.

And now, the city, my city — Boston — can get out of Groundhog Day, never forgetting, always remembering, and now making a new memory at 26.2.  Boston 2014, NPR8 for inspiring me to open my heart, friends, family — thank you, thank you for changing my life.

Here are a few highlights leading up to the finish.


Mom and Papa Bear accompanied me to get the qualifying bib number.


Special friend and his Puggle who met me 3x along the course to provide water, baked sweet potato (my request), and a wet towel thingy that managed to stay wet the whole course.


Post-race foot soak surrounded by an apartment full of friends and family.

— Dawn Castillo Harper

Groundhog Day: Boston 2014 Eve

You know the movie, with Bill Murray.

This past year has been Groundhog Day for me. I have relived 4.15.2013 and all the emotions that surround it over and over again. I’ve trained with these emotions all season long.

I will think about all of them tomorrow on my run. I will literally run … them … out.

I will run with my Head Up and my Heart Strong.  Tomorrow, I will create new memories — a new beginning — so to speak when I cross that finish line.

Tomorrow I run for my City, Tomorrow I run for Boston.

I am ready.

— Dawn Castillo Harper

Watertown Police Finish Strong 5k

Yesterday marked the anniversary — 4.19.13 — Shelter-in-Place was lifted for us. Never forget the true heroes. Thank you, Watertown Police.


In photo:  Jeff Bauman and Watertown Police Chief Deveau.


Papa Bear joined me.  First 5k together.  It won’t be our last.

— Dawn Castillo Harper

The Anticipation: The Arrival Of A Few Guests

Mom and Papa Bear arrive tonight.

I can hardly wait to see them. It’s tough living so far from them. But we do manage to see each other at least 4x a year (more than my three older brothers, who live within driving distance from them. I have to give them a hard time :) )). I still text with my mom daily. So it’s as if she lives here in Boston.

I’m not really sure how my mom is feeling about this year’s marathon.  My mother and my friend Michelle were feet away from the finish line explosion at 2:49 p.m. When the FBI released it, you could seen them on surveillance video walking behind the bombers on Bolyston. We know that things could have been very different for mom and Michelle if they had just paused for a photo at the wrong place and time. In fact, my friend, Michelle, urged my mother to keep walking, to keep walking past the finish line toward Dartmouth on that Monday. I know both of them will never forget the sights and sounds they heard that day.

I am glad she is returning this year and I am hoping that she will make a new, better memory at the finish line. And my dad will be by her side this time. They will be the first two people I hug when I cross the finish line in four days.

I know everyone says this (and they should, quite frankly), but damn, I do love my parents. I would ABSOLUTELY not be where I am at today without them. The daily emotional support that I have from across the country is ridiculous. Today … this weekend … I give gratitude.

— Dawn Castillo Harper

imageThis selfie was taken last year before race day in front of Georgetown cupcakes (my fav). I made my mom wait in line like a tourist.  We’ll go back this year, but it will be post-finish, post-new memory at the finish line.

Meet The Cool Down Group

No, not a running group (because I prefer to run alone), but the group I cool down with post-run.  

Please meet [left to right] Phoebe and Chandler.  


They certainly cannot participant in my runs, but they always accompany me on my post-run walk / rest seshes. They are much better at the latter. 


Five days after the marathon, Chandler will turn 10.  


And in the Fall, Phoebe will turn 7.


I’ve been the proud parent of both since they were both 8-weeks old.

Without these two, there would be have been a few more missed morning runs this season because they quickly adapted to the 5A breakfast time, and so, there was no sleeping in for me. #pugmom of the year.

Thanks you two.

— Dawn Castillo Harper

DawnyMonster, One Year Ago - 4.15.13


Yep, that’s my nickname. An ex-boyfriend coined it and, well, both have stuck.

The nickname was a spin-off of my Twitter and Instagram names: Dawnytime. Dawnytime was used for, well, I guess, the everyday perky version of myself. And, well, as you can imagine, the other — DawnyMonster — was the not-so-best version of myself. I laugh as I type this because I now know when I become “DawnyMonster.”

But, as cute as the nickname may be, it has also been a huge part of my personal growth over the last 6 months. I have learned to let go, to let go of all things that I cannot control, and to dump all of those thoughts/emotions into my own personal mental “trash bin.” So, now, I try to be less of DawnyMonster and more of Dawnytime.

As you can probably imagine, being a runner and, more importantly, daring to run 26.2 miles, I have a pretty Type-A personality which also tees up with my choice of occupation. Almost four years ago, I migrated from the Dirty Dirty South to pursue a legal practice in Boston. Yep, born in D.C. but grew up in Louisiana.

Last week, I did an interview with my local TV station in Louisiana and the reporter asked: “Do you still identify with Louisiana?” I smiled and replied: “Of course I do. in fact, it is a great conversation starter with New Englanders because they automatically assume that I should have an accent.” But, you see, I have learned that, for me, my childhood allowed me to grow up in an environment where we were all children going to school and playing outside. It truly allowed me to grow up in an innocent, carefree environment. I would not trade that experience in for a second.

Since in Boston, life has not been 100 percent glamorous by any means.  I’ve had a severe case of the rude awakenings into “adult life.” I’ve been knocked down a few times.

But, as a friend recently told me: “You always find something positive to cling onto even when things are really shitty.” Today, I think all my friends would agree, that no matter what, I get my ass back up, and I do it again, and I’ll do it better than before. Over the past 6 months, I have become a more compassionate, caring and vulnerable person. “The world needs more people like you” is the email I received from someone reading my marathon fundraising page. Unfortunately, even as recently as a year ago, my friends would probably not describe me as that person, but as a brat instead.

Without a doubt in my mind, the last year and, more importantly, the last 6 months have forever changed my heart, body and soul in the best way possible.

I know I am still here, still here with my family and friends, and I will live life as fully as possible because it could have been very different one year ago today. I have been thinking that crossing the finish line this year will represent a new beginning for me, so to speak. A chance to cross and release those painful 4.15.2013 moments, a chance to release those growing pains, those failures, all of those things that have happened that I want to leave behind (but, not forget).

Despite all the painful memories of that day, I know that without those moments, I would not be here today, on this anniversary day with a chance to live, a chance to lead a more compassionate life with a stronger heart.

#bostonstrong #weruntogether “United, we will always preserve.”

— Dawn Castillo Harper 

A Week of Remembrance, A Week of Strength

And a week of tears. It’s going to be a tough week, I know it.

I spent 8 hours at the office today (in hopes to avoid any late nights this week) and walked home to find this on Boylston …


This has been my walk home for the 4 years that I have been a Bostonian and I truly do love my hood. Living 2 blocks from the finish line inspired me to want to run in Boston.

As I mentioned before, I love witnessing the assembly of the finish line.  The runner’s village is set-up right in front of Boston’s public library and they have already shut down the street.


But, this image, this assembly of the finish line, the news trucks, all of it, now has such a different meaning. I remember. I see the faces that won’t be with us this year. I see those people that have had to learn how to live with their injuries. I can’t help but cry. And I do, wherever I am, and I let myself feel.

This week will be especially tough with the increased broadcasting on TV and social media (like this one that came up in my feed today: For Richard Family, Loss And Love.

These stories are absolutely heartbreaking. I will have to hold it in at work. But I will let it out during my runs.

— Dawn Castillo Harper

'Sports Illustrated' Comes To Boston To Capture #BostonStrong Cover Photo

On Wednesday April 16, 2014, a day after the one-year anniversary of the 2013 Boston Marathon, Sports Illustrated will release a special edition. On the cover — along with 2,998 other Boston runners, first responders and other people who love their city — will be Amelia Nelson and myself (see below). The message —> Boston is Strong. You bet your ass it is.  

The SI creative director described everything as “perfect.”


Indeed, it was a perfect day in Boston. To me, the weather was exactly what I remembered last Patriot’s Day. The energy in the neighborhood is picking up, the time is near and I know the next few days will forever leave an imprint on my heart and mind.


And also, I was finally able to meet my fellow #NPR8 Bostonian, Amelia.  Although, it was a quick first meet, I felt like I already knew her after following this blog.

Amelia: it was an absolute pleasure to meet you, your mother and your friends.


— Dawn Castillo Harper