GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Boston Marathon returned this Patriot’s Day for the first time since 2019, and a Michigan man was set to run in honor of his parents, who both died of cancer.

More than 28,000 runners signed up to participate in the 126th race, including Nick Acosta, of Grand Rapids, who made it a goal five years ago.

Acosta, 30, started running when he was 15. He ran cross country in high school, and now he’s a long-distance runner. 

“It was one of those things where I don’t know if I can do a 10K, and I did a 10K. I don’t know if I can do a half marathon. Did a half marathon. Marathon is too much, and this is my fourth marathon coming up,” he said. 

The Amway River Bank Run was his first 10K, which he finished in 55 minutes. Now, his fastest 10K time is 37 minutes.

He then made it a goal to run a marathon. He finished the Bayshore Marathon in three hours and 56 minutes, and since then, he’s shaved 29 minutes off that time. After that, he hoped to qualify for Boston, but to do that, you have to finish a qualifying race in less than three hours, so he knew it would be a tough feat. 

“I read an article only 2% of all marathon runners can break three hours, and that’s like 20,000 people. That’s a very, very low percentage of men that can do it. Therefore, I’d be one of the fastest men alive,” Acosta explained. 

He knew there was a charity event, so he decided to apply as a charity runner. 

“When I saw that American Liver Foundation was a sponsor, I was like that has to be the one. I only applied to them, only intended to get accepted by them if I did. I didn’t apply to any other charity because it just didn’t make sense,” he said

Of the dozens of charities, ALF hit close to home for Acosta. He lost both his parents to liver cancer within just four years of each other. 

“My dad died on my 25th birthday back in 2017. My mom just passed away in June 2021,” he said.

Acosta’s dad was 64, and his mom was 60 years old. 

“It hit me hard because I just turned 30. I just realized I could be in my mid-life crisis right now, which is weird to say at 30 years old,” said Acosta.

He is trying his best to experience as much as possible, still processing the grief, but knowing his efforts will bring honor to his parents.

“I try to do things in their memory and running the Boston Marathon, raising money for ALF is one of them,” Acosta said, adding, “If nobody else has to deal with it as I did, then that’s kind of a win for all of us I guess.”

As a team member with ALF, Acosta had to raise $7,500 to participate in the race. He reached that goal but made it a personal goal to raise $10,000. He has until April 30 to collect funds.

The Boston Marathon, the world’s most prestigious marathon, returned to the streets from Hopkinton to Copley Square on Monday, three years after the last Patriots’ Day race and six months after its 125th edition was delayed, canceled and delayed again by the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a smaller and socially distanced field ran in October, thousands geared up for Monday’s 26.2-mile slog, including 11 former champions.

To read more about Acosta’s story, you can find his fundraising campaign online. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.