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Thomas mother-daughter duo readies for Boston Marathon

by | Mar 5, 2024 | Featured, Featured: Features

Hopkinton’s Deb Thomas will run her sixth Boston Marathon in 2024, and this year she’ll be joined for the first time by her daughter, Caitlin. The pair will run to benefit Girls On The Run Greater Boston.

It’s a moment that feels like coming full circle for Deb. When Caitlin was in fourth grade, Deb started a chapter of Girls on the Run (GOTR) in Hopkinton.

Founded in 1996, GOTR (girlsontherunboston.org) is a national program that has served over 2 million schoolchildren across the country. Participation provides a framework for setting and reaching goals and builds confidence through achievement.

“I read about Girls On The Run in Runner’s World magazine, and it just resonated with me,” Deb shared. “It’s not a ‘runner’s program’ — it’s about self-esteem, self-confidence, healthy body image. They use running to reinforce the core message.”

Deb ran track and played field hockey in junior high school, but then a knee issue required surgery. Fearing long-term injury, she abandoned sports and didn’t pound the pavement again until her early 30s.

“My office had a gym, and I had friends there who ran every morning. They kept saying, ‘You should come, you should come!’ And I kept saying, ‘Oh, no, no, I’m not a runner,’ ” she recalled. But one day she decided to join them, and “next thing you know, I was actually an avid runner!”

Caitlin Thomas

Caitlin Thomas (left) will join her mother, Deb, for this year’s Boston Marathon.

Flash forward, she now has 18 marathons — five Bostons — under her sneakers. Caitlin’s childhood memories include cheering Deb on at races.

“That was something Mom always did, and it made it so normal — but it’s not a normal thing, AT ALL, to run a marathon!” she said with a laugh.

Deb served on the GOTR board and co-chaired galas for several years, and she just recently stepped down from her advisory position. For Caitlin, Deb is not just a great role model, she’s “superwoman.”

“She’s probably the reason I’m doing this crazy thing!” Caitlin declared with admiration.

Caitlin participated in the GOTR program throughout middle and high school, but said she wasn’t a competitive athlete. “It was more for fun, so I could be outside,” she explained.

When she went to study neuroscience on the pre-med track at Boston College — located at mile 21 on the Boston Marathon course — Caitlin was inspired to make the race a goal.

“Mom said, ‘Well, if you really want to do that, you should try a half marathon first,’ ” Caitlin relayed. She ran her first half in November 2023, and “two days after, I signed up for another one,” she said. “I got the bug. It’s addictive!”

Heading into March, the Thomases already were within a few hundred dollars of reaching their goal of $24,000 for Girls on the Run via their fundraising page at GivenGain (givengain.com/champion/debandcaitlin).

The pair can’t train together in person due to geographical distance, but they send one another updates.

“I call Mom after pretty much every run to talk about my shin splints or whatever,” said Caitlin. “We’re training together, just not physically.”

Now motivated to take the sport more seriously, Caitlin said she’ll continue running, and her mother won’t be stopping anytime soon. Deb loves running because “you can do it anywhere, and for me, it really helps clear my head. Plus, the social aspect of it — I have friends who I run with here all the time, and I just think it’s a great way of exercising.”

She added a final point that exemplifies the self-empowerment promoted by GOTR: “All you need is your own legs! I’ve tried cycling, and I don’t like being reliant on equipment. I mean, with the bike, you can get a flat tire or something. I prefer just relying on my legs.”


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