WESTMINSTER — For one town resident, participating in the 127th annual Boston Marathon this spring is more than just about checking an item off his bucket list, it’s about parlaying his relatively newfound devotion to running into doing something worthwhile for the greater good for very personal reasons.
Mike Conti will be running alongside upwards of 25,000 runners on April 17 as a member of Tedy’s Team, the Massachusetts based nonprofit organization former New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi formed in 2005 after he had a stroke at the age of 31. Bruschi was in the prime of his life, having just won his third Super Bowl as a member of the Patriots and he had recently returned from his first Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
Almost 18 years, over 1,500 alumni, numerous travel marathons, Falmouth Road Races and Boston Marathons later, Tedy’s Team has raised well over $8 million to support the American Stroke Association and helped reduce deaths from stroke by raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke — and breaking the stigma of who can have a stroke.
Conti’s fundraising goal is $10,000 and as of press time he’s over halfway there. The 45-year-old said he was inspired to run for Tedy’s Team for a couple reasons, one being that heart disease runs in his family.
“I always knew this from my parents telling me about our relatives, but it didn’t really hit home until my dad passed away in 2016 at the age of 68,” Conti shared. “He was the sole caretaker of my mother, who suffered from a stroke four years earlier, and it was very hard on my family. My dad was looking forward to retirement and spending more time playing golf and visiting his grandchildren, but he passed away from a heart attack before that could happen. Tedy’s Team raises money and awareness for stroke and heart disease while supporting survivors, giving them the means for a comeback. It was a perfect match for me and what I am trying to do.”
Born and raised in Templeton, the Narragansett Regional High School and Springfield Technical Community College graduate settled down in Westminster with his wife Sarah and their four kids three years ago. He began running in 2021 after deciding to challenge himself to run a marathon.
“I have never been a runner but I’m a full believer that you can do anything you put your mind to,” Conti said.
He found a marathon, the Clarence DeMar Marathon in Keene, New Hampshire, “a couple of good friends to run with,” David Smith and Gary Maser, picked a couch to marathon training program, and started his journey.
“My only goal was to finish, and I did!” he proudly said. “After I finished, I figured I would never run another marathon but then Smitty pinged Gary and I and convinced us to run the Mount Desert Island Marathon in Bar Harbor, Maine this past October. Since I was in somewhat good shape already, I figured it was now or never to run the Boston.”
He said that while running one of the most elite marathons in the world “became a bucket list type thing for me, I wanted to make sure that I ran for a charity that meant something to me.”
Conti spent a day looking through and researching “all the wonderful charities and what they raised money for” and when he came across Tedy’s Team, he knew that was the one.
He said training for Boston is going well and that he is “in better shape for this marathon than I have been at this spot for previous races.” Conti runs five to six miles twice a week and sometimes his wife, who also runs regularly, joins him, and he does a long run on the weekends.
His longest run so far training for Boston was 12 miles and this weekend he’ll be “conquering 14 miles.” On the non-running days, he does strength training and Sundays are typically his rest day.
“One of the many benefits of being part of Tedy’s Team is that I have access to Training Coach John Furey,” Conti said. “He’s helped set up a schedule and answers any questions that I’ve had, for example injuries, ways to improve, dos and don’ts, etc.”
He looped in his “Go Gadget Go” bandmates to help with his fundraising efforts. He went to highschool with most of the tight knit group and said they “have been incredible” when it comes to doing what they can to support him.
“I floated the idea to them about playing two private shows for a $1,500 donation and they were all on board,” Conti shared. “These guys are some of my best friends and are donating a lot of time for me.”
They band typically does not play private parties so he figured “this would be a win-win situation” as “someone will get to have an awesome party band playing their event while making a generous donation to an amazing cause.”
So far, they have one of the two available private events booked, “a backyard bash,” and there is still one up for grabs. The band is also putting on a fundRAGER on Feb. 25 at Wachusett Brew Yard in Westminster, a venue they often rock out at. Several local musicians will be joining them for the event, they’ll have raffle prizes “and more fun shenanigans” to be announced soon, and all the proceeds from the suggested $10 cover at the door will benefit Tedy’s Team.
Conti said it means the world to him to have his bandmates, friends, family, the greater community, and even strangers supporting his altruistic efforts — and that he can’t thank them enough.
“I am not one to ask for help, so I am very overwhelmed with the support I have received,” he said. “I’ve been getting donations from companies that I work with, friends, family, and even people I haven’t spoken to since high school. There are a lot of good people out there.”
When it comes to his biggest cheerleader, his wife of 11 years tops the list.
“Sarah has been my biggest supporter. She has encouraged me the entire way and she helps keep me on track with healthy eating. This journey would be a lot more difficult without her by my side.”