CEE grad student Thomas Petersen runs marathon to support MIT Collier Fund

April 16, 2014

By Denise Brehm
Civil & Environmental Engineering

CEE graduate student Thomas Petersen has been running competitively for a decade. He placed 13th in his first half-marathon at age 17 in Phoenix, competed in NCAA Division I cross country and track championship tournaments while at North Carolina State University, and finished 11th in the 2013 San Francisco Marathon.

He’s running the Boston Marathon April 21 with the MIT Strong team — not to compete, he says, but to honor the memory of Sean Collier, the MIT police officer who was slain April 18, 2013, in the wake of last year’s Boston Marathon bombing.

Thomas Petersen running the San Franciso marathon
Thomas Petersen running the San Francisco Marathon June 2013

“I want to run in remembrance of Sean Collier and to the best of my ability for those people that were really affected by his death: my teammates and friends at MIT who knew him,” says Petersen. “For a lot of people, the connection to that time is really tragic. Hopefully this will be a way to build community spirit and alleviate some of that sadness.”

Petersen was working late in Parson’s Lab the night Collier was killed. He heard gunshots and saw the aftermath of the shooting from a window in the first-floor lab of Building 48. “Had I looked over my shoulder, I would have Sean Collier being shot,” he says.

While he had planned to run the marathon once during his doctoral studies at MIT, it was last year’s tragic events that triggered Petersen’s decision to run this year. He ran the San Francisco Marathon in June in order to qualify, which he did with a time of 2 hours, 42 minutes, 59 seconds

Petersen, wearing bib number 736, will be in the first wave of runners leaving Hopkinton at 10 a.m. Monday. His family will travel to Boston — his parents from Germany, his sister from North Carolina, and his brother from Texas —to cheer him on. CEE community members can track his progress during the event at the official marathon website.

The 40 members of the MIT Strong team have each committed to raise at least $4,000 for the Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund. (Runners who, like Petersen, qualify for the Boston Marathon based on a previous marathon record need to raise $1,000). They’ll join some 36,000 other runners at the starting line April 21.

To read more about Petersen and help him raise $1,000 for the Collier Fund, please donate at the MIT Strong website. The team has also provided locations for seven MIT “cheer stations.”

Editor's note: Thomas Petersen finished the Boston Marathon with a time of 2:40.