Alia Qatarneh to represent her community in the Boston Marathon

Story by Marianne Salza

East Boston native Alia Qatarneh fondly remembers watching the Boston Marathon from the sidelines with her father and sister growing up.  Now, Qatarneh is thrilled to be participating in the 127th Boston Marathon. She is one of the nine athletes to have received a race bib through the Boston Running Collaborative, a committee developed by the Boston Athletic Association to diversify, expand access, and provide resources to runners.

Photo by Frances Ramirez, Boston Athletic Association
Alia Qatarneh, running in Piers Park, will be participating in the 127th Boston Marathon on April 17

As a ‘leadher” of female running group, TrailblazHers Run Collective, Qatarneh is dedicated to empowering women. TarilblazHers is a sisterhood that encourages members to run or walk at a comfortable pace.

“It’s important to me because I am representing TrailblazHers, and the neighborhood of East Boston,” said Qatarneh, Boston Marathon bib number 27448. “I’m bringing with me these important communities.”

Qatarneh strives to transform the notion of what a runner looks like. To her, every body is a runner.

“When society thinks of a runner, they may think of someone tall and skinny,” explained 5-foot-2-inch Qatarneh.  “TrailblazHers disrupts that narrative. Being a part of something that is actively changing what it means to be a runner is powerful. I feel privileged to be in a space where I can do that work. I believe that anyone and everyone is a runner.”

Self-Care Sundays are monthly events that TrailblazHers hosts to focus not only on fitness, but comradery and mental health. Some 100 women attended the most recent Self-Care Sunday on March 26, at Marathon Sports in Cambridge.

“Each Self-Care Sunday has a different theme. It could be Zumba, self-defense, or sound bath and meditation. This one we learned about different shoe types based on gait; and women were fitted for shoes,” described Qatarneh, whose collection of colorful running sneakers neatly line her hallway.

TrailblazHers also leads Thursday evening runs every week, alternating between Cambridge and around the Prudential Center, Boston. Qatarneh hopes to broaden Thursday evening runs to other parts of the city as the group continues to grow.

“It’s important for us to be visible,” noted Qatarneh. “We have an amazing community. It’s magical.”

TrailblazHers does not require a membership fee; and a running group and walking group are always offered.

“One of the reasons we don’t require women to pay is that is a barrier. Our job is to eliminate barriers for women to be healthy – whatever that means to them,” Qatarneh emphasized.

Women of all ages – young adults, retirees, mothers and their children — partake in TrailblazHer activities, and develop friendships.

“You don’t have to be a marathoner to be a TrailblazHer. You can run or walk around the block, and you’re still a TrailblazHer,” clapped Qatarneh affirmably. “I’ve seen women gain confidence, sign up for races, and explore distances they never thought of before.”

The upcoming Thursday evening runs will take place on March 30 (Qatarneh’s 35th birthday), and April 6, at Marathon Sports, 671 Boylston Street, Boston, near the marathon finish line. The festivities will include food and slush sponsored by Goodr, a Los Angeles sunglass company.

Qatarneh has been running since she was a student at Boston Latin School. What had once been an independent activity is now a communal opportunity in which she can ask questions without judgement.

“This community is special. I’ve never been around a group of women who uplift and celebrate me. When I run in groups it is therapeutic. We spend miles talking and laughing,” Qatarneh shared. “The community has helped me understand my worth and my value. I’m incredibly happy. I go to TrailblazHers because it fills my heart.”

Qatarneh also values the peacefulness of running alone.

“When I run by myself, it’s cathartic. I don’t run with music. It’s dedicated time with myself, with no interruptions,” Qatarneh said calmly.

TrailblazHers Run Collaborative is sponsored by Puma. Visit to learn about local running opportunities, or join the monthly newsletter that reaches 2,000 subscribers. 

The 127th Boston Marathon, on April 17, 2023, will be Qatarneh’s first marathon. To prepare for the monumental event, Qatarneh has been running four times a week, and has a self-prescribed dinner regimen; but whenever the Somerville resident is able to return home to Eagle Hill, she loves sharing Sunday dinners with her mother and nonna.

Qatarneh is the director of Harvard University’s science outreach program, the Amgen Biotech Experience, which has a partnership with East Boston High School. Students can elect to be enrolled in the biotechnology pathway for their junior and senior years.

Qatarneh is a skilled floral arranger. She enjoys cooking, spending time with her family, and decorating her home office with completed Harry Potter puzzles.

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