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Descended from Boston royalty: Ottawa’s Krista MacDonald

On the 125th anniversary of her great-grandfather's historic victory, Krista MacDonald makes her Boston Marathon debut

At the second Boston Marathon in 1898, Ronald MacDonald, an improbable runner from Antigonish, N.S., who was a student at Boston College, became the first Canadian to win the historic Boston Marathon in a world best time of 2:42. Inspired by his example, Ottawa’s Krista MacDonald, who is MacDonald’s great-granddaughter, will run the Boston Marathon on Monday for the first time. 

Ronald MacDonald at the Boston Marathon in 1898    

In 1898, the race started in Ashland, Mass., about four miles east of Hopkinton, where the race was moved in 1924 to fulfil the standard length (42.2 km) set by World Athletics prior to the 1908 Summer Olympics. Ronald was a runner at the time, but had never run the marathon distance. “Ronald didn’t know what to expect going into the race, as he wasn’t among the favourites,” Krista says. The race favourite at the time was John McDermott, who won the inaugural Boston Marathon in 1897.

The 22-year-old from Antigonish surprised many of the spectators, running the entire 40 km race without fluids and in bike shoes to set a course record of 2:42:00, over 13 minutes faster than McDermott’s time from the previous year. Krista’s father, Hugh, still has the shoes and singlet worn by his grandfather on Patriots’ Day in 1898. 

The shoes that were worn by Krista’s great-grandfather, Ronald, at the 1898 Boston Marathon

Although Krista knows she won’t win the race, her goal is to take in the experience of her great-grandfather and run for her sister, Katie, who was diagnosed with stage four neuroendocrine cancer eight weeks ago. “If she can fight cancer, I can run a marathon,” Krista says. 

Krista has been a runner most of her life, participating in track and cross-country in her youth, falling out of love with the sport when she began playing basketball in high school. Her interest in running was reignited when she stumbled upon the Ottawa Marathon while out for a walk on a spring day in 2007. In 2011, Krista got to experience the race herself, running 3:40:15, qualifying for Boston in her first marathon. 

Krista and her three kids before the 2019 NYC Marathon

Unfortunately, Krista did not end up getting to compete in Boston in 2012, as the cut-off time was several minutes faster than her qualifying time. “After that, injuries slowed down my running for a while,” she says. “Then life got in the way of my training.”

“My great-grandfather has always inspired me to run,” she says. Krista’s goal has always been to reach the start line in Boston and through the Team TCS Teachers Program, she will now get the chance to make the prestigious 42.2 km journey from Hopkinton to Boston on April 18. 

Krista will be running for TCS Teachers team at the 2022 Boston Marathon

Krista is a high school phys-ed and science teacher at St. Peter Catholic High School in Ottawa. “Training for Boston has become a part of my schedule,” says Krista. “I have been doing tempo runs in between classes and on my lunch.”

Her journey to Boston has even inspired 18 of her students, who will do their own variation of the race on the school’s 400m track. 

For the first time in almost three years, the prestigious Boston Marathon returns to its traditional Patriots’ Day date of April 18. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for all content leading up to the 126th Boston Marathon.

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