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Newton teen running Boston Marathon on 18th birthday in memory of friend

Youngest Boston Marathon athlete to run in memory of friend
Youngest Boston Marathon athlete to run in memory of friend 01:53

NEWTON - Growing up along the historic Boston Marathon route, Newton native Spencer Bernstein knew he'd love to be a part of it. "I saw that the date fell on April 15, and I was like this is perfect I'm going to do it," he said.

He finally can, turning 18 on Marathon Monday.

"I'll be able to celebrate after, but I really want Monday to be about Preston," said the Dexter Southfield senior.

Spencer Bernstein
Spencer Bernstein CBS Boston

Running for Preston Settles   

Running toward the finish line on his first legal day as an adult, Spencer's thoughts will be flooded by the past. Precious memories of a friend whose spirit will stay 15.

"He was just so much fun to be around. He was just the most outgoing and charismatic person," Spencer said, smiling.

Preston Settles collapsed during a basketball game in 2022. He had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The thickened heart muscle condition often goes undiagnosed without symptoms.

"Over those next three weeks it was really difficult to see his downhill progression. Sometimes you heard good news and then there was a lot more bad news," he recalled.

Preston Settles
Preston Settles CBS Boston

Preston's death was devastating for the many, many family members and friends who adored the boy. And now Spencer will run the marathon to turn something so bad, into good - protecting others.

"I would write his initials on my wrist. When the marathon came around, I was like, 'this is for Preston. This is it,'" the 17-year-old promised.

More than $16,000 raised for memorial fund   

Spencer has twice surpassed his fundraising goal, donating more than $16,000 to speeding up the detection of and care for people with the heart condition.

"He would love it. He would think this is a great honor to him and I know he's going to be watching me on Monday," Spencer said. 

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