BHS Hall of Fame Runner Coming Home for Marathon

April 13, 2023
Caitlin Hurley De Santi and her family. Courtesy photo

Caitlin Hurley was a senior captain of the cross country team at Harvard in 1997 when she ran her first Boston Marathon – “on a whim. I never had run more than 15 miles, and I just decided to try it. Back in the day, you kind of could do this,” she said. “So, I just joined in the beginning. I was exhausted at the end and I said, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever do this again.’”

Ten years ago, she was back at the starting line in Hopkinton for her fifth Boston race, this time as Caitlin Hurley De Santi. She was the 105th female competitor to finish the course; her time was less than three hours. 

While relaxing on the Boston Common with her kids, “we heard sounds which I assumed had to do with some kind of celebration.” Only when her husband called – from his diplomatic post in northern Iraq – did she learn of the terrorist attack. “It shattered my naivete,” she said.

On Monday, De Santi plans to return to the Boston course; “It’s okay if I don’t get my best time. I just want to be in good shape and have the opportunity to run in the city that I love.”

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The 1993 Bedford High School graduate – the youngest of 10 alumni in the 2006 inaugural class of the BHS Sports Hall of Fame – will be visiting her parents here, Mary and Jim Hurley.

She and her three children will be traveling from Managua, Nicaragua, where her husband Simone has served as the ambassador from Italy since last summer. Caitlin works as a sixth-grade English teacher and their three children attend the bilingual American Nicaragua School.

After four years in the Washington, DC area, De Santi said relocating to Nicaragua took some adjusting. “My hope had been to be able to find a group and run outside,” she said, but soon “I realized the easiest thing was to run on a treadmill” because of the city’s heat, wild dogs, and bad neighborhoods.

Nevertheless, she won the Managua Half-Marathon last fall, and recalled the “super humidity. I have never been so hot running.” 

Training for Boston on a treadmill is boring, De Santi acknowledged, and “I haven’t been doing many hills. But I love a good challenge, and I have a goal. It’s just so fun to be part of it.” 

The Boston Marathon, she remarked, is like “an electric line of energy you can feel the whole way. That helps propel you.”

Training outside is “something you take for granted when you can. When your security is an issue, it becomes a gift to be able to run outside. I’m looking forward to being part of the amazing group of athletes out there on the course, really focusing on the race and enjoying the process.”

Caitlin Hurley competed in five varsity sports over her four years at BHS and was a state champion in the two-mile, but she didn’t get serious about cross country until an injury precluded her senior year in soccer.

After a successful four-year cross country career at Harvard, she accepted an internship at an international school in Rome through the Harvard Overseas Teaching Program. As she was leaving Bedford, “My mom joked, ‘Don’t fall in love with an Italian,’” De Santi recalled.

Despite that advice, she met her future husband, who was studying for a career in the foreign service. “I love travel and adventure and learning about culture and change – I was up for it,” she said. 

“I’ve run wherever we’ve lived,” De Santi related. Sometimes it was natural and relaxed – Rome, Australia, Bethesda, MD, and Boston, when Simone was at Harvard’s Kennedy School for a mid-career master’s program. She finished second overall in a Melbourne Marathon more than a decade ago. “I sort of shocked myself,” she laughed. 

Other places were less hospitable, such as Pakistan, as hot and humid as Managua. Then there was Irbil in northern Iraq, where in a distance race, De Santi was one of only three women runners wearing shorts. “We became the subject of many photographs – it was a wild experience,” she remembered.

De Santi said she will spend the coming academic year with her children, Luca, 17; Mia, 14; and Sofia, 8, in Bedford. Nicaragua is a beautiful country, replete with volcanoes, lakes, coffee plantations, and waves ideal for surfing. But for her children, it also has been “a huge challenge. Just the lack of freedom and independence, the social language.” As they get older, she acknowledged, “it’s really hard to keep starting over, especially for kids.”

She expects to be returning to Managua frequently. “The embassy hosts dinners and parties and things like that all the time and I have a role there as well,” she said. “So, I’m going to be going back and forth.”

De Santi is also a serious writer, participating in a writing program called the Novel Year. “I’m hoping to fictionalize some of our story,” she said.

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