Amherst’s Gia Parker finds competitive outlet running for charity at Boston Marathon


  • Rain droplets spatter and drip off a banner during the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass., Monday, April 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm) Mary Schwalm

Published: 4/16/2018 7:58:41 PM

BOSTON — Gia Parker’s soccer career ended in the fall with the close of Dartmouth’s season.

The Amherst native and Williston Northampton graduate needed an outlet.

“I’m super competitive and needed something to fill that void,” Parker said.

She also wanted to contribute to the community in recognition of all the help she received from parents, coaches and neighbors.

So, she started researching charities to raise money for running the Boston Marathon. The Dartmouth senior settled on the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation. The Stepping Strong Center was established four years ago in gratitude to the caregivers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who saved Reny’s life and legs after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

“I wanted to help them because I thought their story was really inspiring,” Parker said.

She’d never ran competitively before or ran more than 3½ miles. Training began Jan. 6 with her team. The attempt was nearly derailed two weeks ago when she thought she had a stress fracture in her foot. Parker sought a second opinion, which determined the injury was tendonitis.

“I was not just going to stop after having done all that training,” she said.

Race day saw freezing temperatures and driving rain. Parker figured she’d played in rainy soccer games before and it wouldn’t bother her. Then, she remembered soccer games are only 90 minutes.

“(Soccer) definitely prepared me mentally for this,” Parker said. “Honestly I think being a part of the charity made me realize there are bigger things in life. All the things Gillian running had to go through, worrying about the rain felt almost silly.”

Parker finished the marathon in 3 hours, 33 minutes, 30 seconds. Her legs held up until mile 23 when they started to go. The crowd carried her through the finish.

“After that the fans came out for real,” she said.

Parker set a goal to qualify for the marathon on her own without a charity team. Her time did that, and she’ll run again if she’s accepted.

“I need something to be competitive about, more with myself than anything else,” Parker said. “No more soccer, but maybe running now.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at


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