Bristol resident runs Boston for Doug Flutie Foundation

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 4/17/24

Laura Bell said the 'uniquely human' experience was grueling, but unforgettable.

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Bristol resident runs Boston for Doug Flutie Foundation


Laura Bell ran her first marathon in Boston on Monday. Reached at her Bristol home on Tuesday, she suggested it might have also been her last.

“I don’t know, talk to me next week,” she laughed.

Raised in Melbourne Beach, Fla., Bell attended college at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. She is used to living and running in the heat. So when her defense contractor employer transferred her to the northeast last August, she was unsure about living in New England.

“Maybe I over-prepared,” she said. “But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the seasons, and got used to running in the cold.”

For Bell, who says her ideal distance is about 4 miles, the motivation to run Boston came after her fiancé beat her to his first marathon. She was also motivated by the symbolism of running the 26 mile course the year she turned 26. Not knowing how long she will remain at her local work assignment, she thought she would jump on the chance to be a part of the iconic Boston race.

Runners know, you can’t just sign up for Boston, you have to qualify. And with “only” 30,000 entries, qualification is a high bar. But joining charity teams is a way for runners who do not have an existing qualifying time to participate.

“I did not just want to run for any team,” said Bell. “I wanted the charity to mean something to me.”

Then she saw that the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism was a participating charity. Flutie, the former Boston College standout, raised his family, including his son Doug, Jr., who has autism, in Bell’s hometown. She has even been part of a two-hand touch pickup game on Melbourne Beach where she caught a pass from the retired pro. “It was easy to catch because it was the best throw I have ever seen,” she said.

Bell was initially waitlisted for the Flutie team, but she kept emailing the organizer, and even volunteered for one of their training runs in January. Finally, a spot became available. The team was a mix of typically-abled runners and adaptive runners. “It was amazing being a part of that team and watching them excel,” she said.

The fundraising component was a bit onerous, especially as Bell had a late start with the team. A minimum of $8,000 is required.

“I’m lucky I work for a company that offers a 100% match,” she said.

The top fundraiser on the team raised $66,000. The donation window is still open, but to date, the Boston Marathon team has raised $428,000 for the Flutie Foundation.

Of the entire 26.2 mile course, what part did Bell find the most challenging?

“Honestly, the logistics of getting to the start line,” she said. “It’s well-organized, but still such a circus.” She described the experience along the route as energizing and inspirational. “The crowds were just insane,” she said. “Every time I felt discouraged I would look to the side and see kids holding out freeze pops, strangers offering water, and orange slices…and all the signs. My favorite was one that said, ‘This stranger believes in you.’”

“How uniquely human, to take on a 26-mile race, just because you choose to, and to have all these people, police, public service, come together for something completely voluntary,” Bell said.

Though she admits she has thought of some things she might have done differently, her time of 4:32:23 met her personal goal of finishing with a sub-11-minute mile pace. Though she had a small cheering section near the end of the course, she did not mind that she didn’t have a huge local network witnessing her accomplishment.

“I felt so much support, from strangers.”

For more information on the activities of the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation, please visit

2024 by East Bay Media Group

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