Beyond the Brigham

Nurses not only make a difference in the work they do within the hospital each day, but also by volunteering their time and talents for the communities and organizations close to their hearts. This series is dedicated to highlighting some of the many ways that Brigham nurses give back.

Marie Caulfield: 25-Time Marathon Runner, Fundraiser for Cancer Research

Marie Caulfield after finishing her 25th Boston Marathon in April.

Marie Caulfield, MSN, RN, of Shapiro 9/10, is among a small group of people in the world to have run 25 Boston Marathons, a milestone she marked this spring. Only 13 women in the world have completed 25 or more consecutive Boston Marathons, according to the Boston Athletic Association, and the number is similar for total Boston Marathons completed.

Each race is deeply personal for Caulfield, who raises money for cancer research in honor of loved ones, contributing a total of $164,393 to Dana-Farber over a quarter century.

“I ran my first marathon in 1996 in honor of my mom who was diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Caulfield, an avid runner since high school. “She became my inspiration to run and fundraise for this cause.”

Marie Caulfield and Emily, her patient-partner, at mile 25 during one of Marie’s earlier marathons.

The next year, Caulfield was paired with 9-year-old Emily, a leukemia patient, as her patient partner for the marathon as part of the Dana-Farber team.

“We became the dynamic duo and created an incredible bond that we continue to share today,” said Caulfield. “Running with the Dana-Farber team became part of my life, and I am honored to have made life-long friends. “

Caulfield’s involvement with Dana-Farber through the marathon also inspired her to return to school to become a nurse. Emily encouraged her, telling Caulfield, “You would be a great nurse!”

Caulfield completed the Boston Marathon every year from 1996 through 2008. She took a break in 2009 to volunteer on a medical mission to Rwanda.

At that time, Caulfield thought she was ready to hang up her running sneakers, especially with Emily getting older. But that changed in an instant when cancer once again affected her own family.

“My nephew was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and was being treated at Dana-Farber, so I knew that I had to continue,” she said.  “My brother-in-law Tom, a Boston firefighter, created a team to raise money for the Tommy Quinn Brain Tumor Research Fund at Dana-Farber. This was a fund developed by my sister and brother-in-law to raise money for this type of brain tumor.”

Marie Caulfield and her nephew Tommy Quin at mile 17, during the last Boston Marathon before Tommy passed away.

She ran with the Boston Fire Department for the next nine years, from 2010 through 2019. After Tommy’s passing in 2013, Caulfield continued to raise money for both Dana-Farber and a scholarship in his memory.

In 2021, Caulfield was unable to run due to a back injury. “It was heartbreaking not being able to run but it was the right decision,” she said.

‘I Run with My Heart’

This spring marked her 25th Boston Marathon.

“I came back stronger and healthier,” she said. “I know when I can’t run any further, I run with my heart. It doesn’t matter how I got to the starting line and how I did throughout the day. It only matters that I complete what I set out to do, and that is to run 26.2 miles for great causes.”

This past year, Caulfield’s mother passed away after being diagnosed with breast cancer a second time. Her mother and nephew were on Caulfield’s mind during the marathon.

“They are my two angels who watch over me from Hopkinton to Boston,” she said. “If they can endure what they had to go through for so many years, I can endure a little bit of temporary pain on marathon day.”

Marie Caulfield and her mom during the marathon in 2019.

Caulfield isn’t stopping yet. She has her sights set on running the Tokyo Marathon, which would mark another milestone – completing the top six marathons in the world. She has already run the other five: Boston, New York, Chicago, London and Berlin.

‘Full Circle’

Now 32 years old, Caulfield’s patient partner, Emily, is married and cancer-free. She adopted a baby girl six years ago and named her Quinn in honor of Caulfield’s nephew and family.

“It’s full circle, me being there for her during all her treatments and life events, and she gave us the greatest gift of all naming her baby after Tommy,” Caulfield shared. “I know that he would absolutely love Quinn, who is so full of love and kindness, just as Tommy was.”