Billett's Cause to Run
Boston College Goaltender Went the Distance for Charity
by Jen Dobias/CHN Reporter
When Brian Billett’s Boston College teammates learned that he had signed up to run a half marathon, they were surprised.
“They were just baffled at the fact that I would even want to do something like that,” Billett said, with a laugh. “Parker Milner just said, ‘There’s no way that I could ever run a half marathon.’”
But Billett had plenty of reasons to. And, on May 25, the goaltender finished the Great Hyannis Johnny Kelley half marathon, fulfilling his goal to raise awareness and money for the Michael T. Goulet Foundation.
“I wanted to do a little bit more and spread awareness of the foundation down in the Boston area,” the Brunswick, Maine native said. “Any way that I would be able to help would be great, and I saw this as an opportunity.”
Based in Maine, the foundation’s mission is to provide funding for research and education to help improve the lives of patients and families affected by traumatic brain injuries and epilepsy disorders. It was founded in honor of Michael Goulet, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2003 and passed away in 2010 from complications of a grand mal seizure.
For Billett, this cause is very personal. His older brother, Christopher, developed a form of epilepsy during his freshman year of college at the Maine Maritime Academy. Chris, who had dreamed of being an officer in the Navy, ultimately had to transfer to the University of Southern Maine, his military career done before it even started.
Now 26, Chris works in Kennebunk, Maine and hasn’t had a seizure in a little over a year. He may be able to get off of his medication soon, which, Billett said, “would be an unbelievable feat.”
“We’ve been very close growing up. We were both hockey goalies,” Billett said. “It meant a lot to run for him.”
It also meant a lot to run for the Goulet family. Billett was originally introduced to the family at the Parisi Speed School in Saco, Maine. While there, he trained with John Laliberte, a 2006 Boston University graduate who spent the 2013-14 season with the Deutsche Eishockey Liga’s Ingolstadt ERC. Laliberte is married to Goulet’s older sister, Candace, and got Billett to tend net in the foundation’s inaugural Face Off For a Cause hockey game in 2011.
“The more I’ve gotten to know the family I’ve realized how special they really are,” Billett said. “They deserve as much support as possible any way that it can be given.”
Running a half marathon, and selling t-shirts leading up to it, was Billett’s way to go the extra mile for his brother, the Goulet family and the Michael T. Goulet foundation. And it wasn’t easy.
The Johnny Kelley half marathon was Billett’s first foray into distance running. While hockey players are obviously physically fit, their training programs emphasize lifting, agility and speed, which isn’t ideal for running.
“Any hockey player can tell you that they have hockey legs and they’re not built for long distance, and that’s absolutely true,” Billett said. “About the fifth mile, it kind of clicked in that it was going to be a long 13 miles.”
Earlier this year, on May 3, Billett ran the BC Race to Educate, a 5K to benefit the St. Columbkille Partnership School. He placed 47th out of more than 300 runners with a net time of 23:39.6, averaging 7:37 a mile. From that experience, he learned the importance of pacing himself, rather than trying to finish fast.
“It helped me set a pace,” Billett said. “In the 5K, I really went all out and I was gassed by the end. For the half marathon, I averaged around 9:50 [a mile]. But, if anything, it made me dread thinking how long 13 miles actually was.”
The 13 miles may have been as long as he feared, but they were scenic. The course passed by the John F. Kennedy Memorial, wound through historic Hyannisport and also featured ocean views.
“It was more of a mental thing than anything,” Billett said of finishing the race. “The conditioning part wasn’t a big deal. It was just a matter of keeping your legs going for 13 miles. Luckily, it was a really nice day, which made it a little bit easier, and running next to the beach on Hyannis isn’t exactly a bad deal either.”
With a time of just over two hours, Billett didn’t set any records or win anything beyond a finisher’s medal. But it was never about the time for him. Asked if he sees distance running in his future, he admitted that he wasn’t sure.
“Immediately after the race, I said I’d never run another one again,” Billett said. “But I’ve actually been looking at a list of different half marathons. It’s still up in the air. I don’t know if I could run a full marathon. Some time after I’m done hockey, I plan to run one just to say I did.”
In the end, Billett cares most about supporting the Michael T. Goulet foundation. For the fourth-straight year, he plans to play in the Face Off For a Cause hockey game this summer, and he’s also looking for new ways that he can help.
“I’m definitely going to find another way to help the foundation out more,” Billett said. “There are plenty of opportunities for me to continue to spread awareness for it.”