At just 21, Carly Tefft, “The singer-songwriter phenomenon from Cape Cod,” as stated by The Boston Globe has hit the ground running. From releasing her Boston Strong anthem, “Keep On Running” on Marathon Monday in April of 2014 to releasing her sophomore album “Tell It All”, recorded at the renowned Darkhorse Studios (Nashville, TN), it is clear why Tefft was a nominee for “Singer/Songwriter of the Year” by Limelight Magazine Awards.

April 20th, 2015 was a textbook definition of a “Typical Boston Day.” Although April is considered to be “spring,” Mother Nature had other plans. At 6am, it was in the high 30s with rain and wind expected in the forecast. Just a cold, dreary day with no excuse to go outside, except for the fact I was singing at the Boston Marathon starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. All I could think of was how different everything was from my first Boston marathon two years ago. 

April 15th, 2013 was a picture perfect “Spring Day in Boston.” I watched the Red Sox walk-off win at Fenway with my mom on a sunny and 65 degree day, when we decided to watch the runners on their last leg down Boylston street. After watching a few minutes we decided to step inside the Prudential for some lunch. Ten minutes later the whole building shook. After rushing out of the Pru, we shortly learned what had happened and it was like a movie; chaos in the street with sirens coming from all directions, police officers yelling and my phone died. We didn’t know exactly what was going on, but we knew it was bad – someone had done this on purpose. As a songwriter, I’m compelled to turn my thoughts&feelings into lyrics&music, but I couldn’t bring myself to write about the topic. I knew one day I would find inspiration, but didn’t force it until a year later.

Late March 2014, two firemen from a the Boylston firehouse died battling a horrific fire on Beacon street. Although I didn’t know the men personally, I felt attached; they’re my firemen from the firehouse I walk by every day that protect my neighborhood. When I went by to drop off flowers the next day, the fire truck left for another call. Incredible, I thought; Although in a time of tragedy and despair, they had to keep on living…we have to keep on running.

The song wrote itself in a matter of minutes. I showed it to a few of my Berklee friends who gave me their seal of approval for a great tune. “Great,” I said, “Do you think we can get this recorded and film a music video in time for the marathon?” With two weeks until the marathon we shot the music video before recording the track (I lip synched to a click track and prayed the film would line up with the words), woke up with the birds the next day for a 6:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. session and managed to release the video and song on Marathon Monday 2014. From the time the first lyrics were inked on paper, I knew this song was special and needed to be heard on a platform. Never did I imagine I would be able to sing my song for the community I wrote it for.

As soon as I got to the Hopkinton starting line at 8:00 a.m., it started to rain. “Great,” I thought. I was worried about my guitar, how it would hold up in the rain when I had to perform my song a couple hours later. But my perspective quickly changed as the wheelchair racers came to the starting line. Even with rain beating down on them, they didn’t even seem to notice it; their determination and drive was more powerful than any physical or mental obstacle. A retired seargent began to sing “God Bless America” before the start, as I broke down in tears. I fully understood the weight of this moment. For the runners. For the volunteers. For the city. For myself.

The first of many shots of the gun roared through the sky as I composed myself and got ready for the big moment. People always ask me, “Do you get nervous before performing?” Usually, I don’t and try to transform the nerves into excitement. However this time, I did have the butterflies. I wanted to make the community proud. I hoped to honor and heal them with my music. I stepped onto the stage that looked directly over the finish line. I had the thousands of runners to my left, bystanders to my right and volunteers all around me. My name was announced and from there on, it was a bit of a blur because I was truly in the moment. Only having a few hours of sleep the night before, I hoped my voice would sound as strong as my spirit. As soon as I started singing, “It’s the feeling of freedom,” my voice sounded the best its ever sounded at 10:00 a.m. Every few lines I shifted my stance so I could connect with the different crowds, smiling along the way. I remember after the first chorus a young girl and her mother were already singing the words, which made me light up and once the “sing-along, Ohh” bridge section approached, I could hear folks singing with me, like a choir of angels to my ears. I struck the last chord as the crowd roared. What seemed like marathon to get to perform felt more like a sprint; It went by so fast, but I made sure to leave it all out there on the pavement, just like those runners.

My two year journey had come full circle; a bit opposite since I started at the finish line and ended at the starting line, but it was meant to be. I was truly blessed to have connected with the incredible folks at the Boston Athletic Association and Hopkinton Starting Line Committee who made this all happen in less than two weeks. Although declining to sing at Fenway Park the very same day was an incredible decision I never thought I’d have to make, I wouldn’t have traded this singing for the Boston Marathon community, for the world. From the runners and spectators, to the volunteers and media, to the Boston community and beyond, I wrote this for them and for all who Keep On Running no matter what life may bring.

Justin Poon