Colleen Callahan watched the Boston Marathon last year during a downpour, when rain fell on runners and water pooled in the streets. This year, she decided to lace up her shoes and join in.

“I saw these people running for something bigger than themselves,” she said.

While the former Ventnor resident is known for her record-breaking accomplishments in the water, Callahan took to the streets of Boston on Monday and completed the city’s marathon for a cause close to her heart.

Callahan, 23, graduated from Atlantic City High School in 2013 as a legend in the swimming community, winning eight individual state titles and one relay championship and competing in Olympic trials all during her four years as a Viking.

But after a 17-year swimming career that extended to the college level, she has some residual hearing loss. Callahan, now living in Boston for graduate school to become a speech pathologist, has been treated at the Massachusetts Ear and Eye specialty hospital, trusting them with what she has called her “lackluster” eardrums.

When the opportunity came up for her to run on the hospital’s marathon team, she saw it as a chance to support a cause and check another item off her bucket list.

She trained with team members and others competing for a cause every Saturday for 18 weeks, doing long runs up to 21 miles.

“Just go into it with a goal and expectation for yourself, but control the controllables and let the rest be as it is,” Callahan said, explaining that the same drive she had in swimming competitions translated into her new running goals.

“She knew how to step up in big moments,” said Brian Elko, who coached Callahan on the Egg Harbor Township Sea Hawks competitive swim team while she also competed on her high school team.

Since she trained for the marathon in the Boston winter, the race’s warm temperatures Monday were an unexpected challenge.

But running up the hills, feeling totally out of breath, she said she was able to look over and see others’ determination, from a man running in his full police uniform and boots to someone being pushed in a wheelchair.

“The crowd really gets you to the finish,” she said. “The streets are just lined with people. You’re doing it for a bigger cause, and so is everyone else.”

Elko was impressed with Callahan’s latest achievement as she continues to push herself beyond her swimming career.

“It’s very hard for athletes to just stop being athletes,” Elko said. “A lot of times you have to find a different avenue to release that athletic competitiveness, and I think it’s awesome.”

Elko watched videos of Callahan running the race and noticed how she was always smiling.

“She looked happy as could be,” he said. “(It) looked like she enjoyed the whole moment. That was good to see.”

Callahan had raised more than $10,000 for the hospital as of Thursday.

“So many of our runners do come to us with these incredible stories similar to Colleen,” said Amanda Gillespie, communications project coordinator for the hospital. “We like to think that we can inspire our patients to do things like running the marathon or become involved, like she is becoming a speech language pathologist, which is incredible.”

All the funds raised for her team to complete the 26.2 miles will be used for research and patient care for those who suffer from debilitating conditions affecting sight, hearing, voice, balance, taste and smell, and cancers of the eye, head and neck.

“That’s such a big goal and such a big commitment,” Gillespie said. “It just makes it that much more worthwhile to continue what we do.”

Contact: 609-272-7239 Twitter @AublePressofAC

Staff Writer

I report breaking news and cover the local stories at the Press's digital desk. I grew up in South Jersey and graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2017 with a degree in English.

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