#BUandBoston: Interview with Tyler Critz – Running the Boston Marathon Representing Back on My Feet Boston

This post is part of our #BUandBoston series, highlighting the work and research of BU students, faculty, and staff throughout the City of Boston and the Greater Boston region. Interested in having your Boston-related work featured? Tag us on Instagram or Twitter (@BUonCities) using the #BUandBoston or send us an email at ioc@bu.edu.

By Julia Kapusta

“It was somewhat of an impulsive decision,” said Tyler Critz, a senior undergraduate majoring in biochemistry and psychology (CAS/KHC ‘24), when asked what made him want to register to run the Boston Marathon.

“I knew coming into senior year, I really wanted to set a goal outside of academics… to give me something to focus on.”

Critz has always been an athlete–playing soccer, tennis, and skiing all of high school–but it wasn’t until he arrived on BU’s campus in the fall of 2020 that he took to running. “It’s always been therapeutic for me,” he says when describing how running daily on the Esplanade helped him acclimate to a new environment in Boston, much different from his hometown in rural New Hampshire. What began as a COVID-era hobby became one of Critz’s favorite ways to destress.

Back on My Feet Boston, the nonprofit organization Critz represented on race day, also understands how valuable running can be. Dedicated to using running as a means to combat homelessness, Back on My Feet provides volunteer-led walk-and-run groups two to three times a week to those experiencing homelessness or addiction. After committing to run or walk two to three times a week, members receive employment and housing resources such as workshops, personalized support, and one-on-one mentors.

When it was time to register for the marathon, Critz was impressed with how Back on My Feet combats homelessness through this unique model that works directly with the people who need it most. His experience volunteering at homeless shelters and passion for education gave him a keen sense that Back on My Feet differed from other programs.

“Frequently, homelessness is pushed to the absolute bottom because it is a symptom of other problems, but rarely do we dedicate any time to fixing that symptom,” said Critz, “We say we will fix the other problems first, and then naturally homelessness will be fixed—but then you get a bunch of people getting lost in the middle.”

According to the city’s annual homeless census, Boston has encountered a rise in homelessness: a 17.2 percent increase, from 4,439 people in 2022 to 5,202 people in 2023.

Back on My Feet’s impact has not been small. Since the program’s creation in 2007, its members have obtained more than 10,000 jobs and homes and run over 950,000 total miles. Now operating in 16 cities nationwide, their run groups have given thousands of people experiencing homelessness, addiction, and poverty the tools needed to achieve economic independence. Supporting the work of Back on My Feet has been extremely motivating during Critz’s training, which has involved extremely early 5 AM runs. He was most excited for those last seven miles when he could see his BU friends, cross the finish line, and wish his brother a Happy Birthday.

Having never done a timed competitive race before, crossing the finish line was a huge accomplishment for him. Not only did Critz feel accomplished in crossing the finish line, but the experience of physically and mentally working hard to improve his personal progress was rewarding—which is exactly what Back on My Feet advocates for all its members and volunteers.