TOWNSEND -- Each mile should mean something. That's Townsend resident Jennifer McLaughlin's take.

As she prepares to run the Boston Marathon for the first time this year, McLaughlin thinks of the victims of last year's bombing at the race. She thinks of the runners nationwide who have died in training this year. She thinks of a girl in Kentucky with a mitochondrial defect to whom she dedicates every race mile.

"It's nice to run for somebody so you put all your miles to use for good," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin was paired with the Kentucky girl through an organization called I Run 4, which pairs runners with people who aren't able to run because of diseases or disabilities. Runners dedicate their races to the people they are matched with, who cheer them on from afar.

With this race, McLaughlin is also thinking of the Hopkinton Center for the Arts, for which she has agreed to raise $4,000 leading up to the marathon.

The center supports art education, and is raising money to turn an old barn into a performing-arts space, McLaughlin said.

"It was perfect because my daughter's very artistic, and they're cutting art programs so much everywhere," McLaughlin said.

So far, she has raised more than $1,200 toward her fundraising goal.

McLaughlin, who moved to Townsend from Nebraska in 2007, said running has always been therapeutic for her.

"I've always gone back to running whenever I've hit hard times, and it's always gotten me through," McLaughlin said.

Now, her training runs provide some much-needed time to reflect.

"It's my me-time with a busy life, a stressful job, four kids. It's my time to focus and get everything processed," she said. "It's kind of like meditation to me."

After moving to Townsend, she began running 5Ks and, eventually, half marathons after a friend challenged her to run a road race.

Last year, she ran her first marathon, the Bay State Marathon. Although she said she hit a wall around the 20th mile, she has nearly doubled her training regimen this time around. She's done 16 weeks of training, including long runs every weekend to make sure she is ready.

"Now I know what I need to do to get better and I'm training harder to get past that wall."

McLaughlin said she likes the challenge and process of long-distance running, and is learning how to pace herself for her longer runs.

"Not everything has to be fast-paced. You kind of figure it out, your speed and endurance, and you gradually build up to accomplishing the things you never thought you could do."

Those looking to support McLaughlin's efforts can donate to her cause at hopartscenter.org/marathon-runners-2014.