BOSTON (CBS) – On the Boston Marathon starting line this year, there will be a surgical resident running in her late father’s footsteps.

“There’s some good days where I feel so positive about it and other days where I’m like, I wish he would be here, you know?” Vanessa Welten said.

But how could Harry Welten, not be here? His girl says it best, remembering her doting dad.

“He’s sort of larger-than-life type of person. Enthusiasm to spare. Always on the go. Always making you feel like you’re the one important person in the room,” she said.

Now he’s the one important person who lives in her heart. On February 14th 2019, Harry was out running after work on his usual route. He was struck and killed by an oncoming vehicle. It was just one year into Vanessa’s surgical residency at Brigham and Women’s.

“(Working in the hospital) continues to be a difficult thing just because a lot of things that remind me what’s happened to my family,” she explained.

Vanessa’s dad was an elite runner, achieving his personal best here in Boston in 1994. He finished as first Canadian and 52nd overall, achieving his personal career record of 2 hours, 21 minutes, and 45 seconds. Now 28 years later to the day, she’ll run for him.

“It felt serendipitous almost. I couldn’t let that moment pass by. I need to literally, figuratively, every single way run in his footsteps in his honor,” Vanessa said.

Vanessa is raising money for the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center. Gillian was 18 at the 2013 marathon and suffered major injuries in the bombings. Brigham clinicians were able to save her life and her leg, and her grateful family started the Center after learning that trauma is the Number 1 cause of death for people 46 years old and younger – ahead of cancer and heart disease.

Trauma incidents account for 200,000 deaths each year and leave survivors with permanent mental and physical disabilities. Today the Stepping Strong Center is a robust, multi-institutional research center that is deeply committed to training the next generation of medical leaders while advancing the entire spectrum of trauma care – from preventing injuries before they occur to treating and rehabilitating civilians and military heroes who have endured traumatic injuries and events.

“Their mission is turning tragedy in hope,” Vanessa Welten said. “I think it’s a powerful message and something I’m trying to do in my own marathon journey.”

On Monday, Vanessa will tie her sneakers with her dad’s laces. The same ones that held her wedding bouquet. He’s always with her – on those big days, and every quiet moment in between.

“I don’t know, maybe that little voice is still in my head when I’m running,” she said. “My biggest cheerleader, my biggest supporter.”

You can watch live coverage of the 126th Boston Marathon on WBZ-TV and CBS Boston.com on Monday, April 18, 2022.

Juli McDonald