Content warning: This story mentions the loss of a child and cancer.
Andie Mulvaney-Thorp is no stranger to running the prestigious Boston Marathon — a race for which runners must meet challenging qualifying times to enter. She first took on the world’s oldest annual marathon in 2016. Then, she returned in 2021 and 2022 in support of a family facing an unimaginable challenge of its own.
A Best Buy Talent Acquisition Manager, Andie completed the 2021 marathon in Beantown in memory of Francesca “Beans” Kaczynski, her friend’s infant daughter who tragically passed away in December 2020, at only nine months, due to a rare form of brain cancer.
“I was hypervigilant and focused on that family, her story, and I just felt as though no child should have to go through this,” Andie said.
With resounding support from her team and supervisor, Andie took time off to run. Along the way, Andie raised more than $10,000 for Beans and her parents as a part of the Team Beans Infant Brain Tumor Foundation through the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Beans’ legacy was only beginning, largely due to the efforts of her parents, Rachel Ensign and Andrew Kaczynski, both well-known journalists. Andrew reached out to Andie early this year to ask if she would join the official Team Beans and run the 2022 Boston Marathon in memory of Francesca.
“I was like ‘You don’t even have to ask me. I would be so incredibly honored.’” Andie recalls.
Back in Boston
On the morning of April 18, Andie laced up her shoes and boarded the bus to Hopkinton, Massachusetts, where she lined up alongside thousands of other athletes. And at the sound of the starting gun, Andie started running the 26.2 miles for something more valuable than a medal.
She said that around the four-mile mark the mental and physical toll of the race started to weigh on her, but the crowds of cheering fans shouting for Team Beans gave Andie the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
“It blows my mind how many people know about Beans and her story,” she said.
The most challenging part of the course is infamously named “Heartbreak Hill,” a steep half-mile incline at mile 20. For Andie, the hill lived up to its name. But after she conquered the ascent, she saw a sign that read, “The heartbreak is behind you.” It was powerful.
“That sign certainly had an added meaning outside of just the marathon,” Andie said.
Before she knew it, Andie passed the iconic Citgo sign near Fenway Park (the “one mile left” marker) and then, shortly after, rounded the corner of Boylston and Hereford and reached the finish line.
Her final stride was full of emotion. Andie felt she had a lot to be grateful for: her supportive husband and coworkers, her fellow passionate runners who surrounded her, and all the donors who supported Beans and her family in 2021 and 2022.
The marathon netted Team Beans more than $500,000 for the Team Beans Infant Brain Tumor Foundation. This record-breaking total made the Team Beans 2022 Marathon Team the top fundraising team across all Dana-Farber Cancer Institute events. The foundation has now raised nearly $2 million from grassroots efforts alone. Every penny of the money supports research of the same rare cancer Beans had.
Andie hopes to inspire others to get involved in a cause they care about and find ways to support and advocate for what matters to them.
“Find something you’re passionate about and be the change you’re expecting others to be,” she said. “Why can’t it be you? You can do it.”