« Previous  
 Next »

Running Boston

04/21/08 7:55AM By Bill Mares
 MP3   Download MP3 

(HOST) Commentator Bill Mares is an author - and a retired teacher and legislator. He's also been a marathon runner for 30 years; and today he's reflecting on his absence from the most famous running race in the world.

(MARES) At noon today some 16,000 runners will head east from the Hopkinton, Massachusetts green for the 112th running of the Boston Marathon. A twinge of melancholy will flutter in my stomach because I won't be there for this most famous of distance races and the longest continuous sporting event in the world.

Four times I "ran Boston," along with 25 other marathons. This is the Boston of Heartbreak Hill, the famous Johnny Kelly, and the infamous Rosie Ruiz. For Vermont runners, it's a magical rite of spring, sometimes the first chance we have to wear shorts. I'll miss its crowd of two million, the Dixieland band in Framingham, the cathedrals of cheers at Wellesley and Boston College, and finally dragging myself over the line on Boylston Street in what the Czech runner Emil Zatopek called the "most pleasant exhaustion I have ever known."

For 15 years, spring and fall marathons structured my exercise year in increments of three months and 500-600 miles of distance run. Central to that training were two- to three-hour Saturday morning runs with a trio of buddies. Ralph Swenson, an administrator at UVM; Rick Peyser, the director of social advocacy at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters; and Phil Coleman, a chemistry teacher at my school.

We were roughly the same age (although I was both the oldest and the slowest), had roughly the same educational level and roughly the same politics.

In sun, rain, snow and sleet, with temperatures between -10 and +80, we roamed the bike paths, roads and trails of Burlington, South Burlington, Shelburne, Williston and Winooski.

Talking non-stop, we treated these jaunts as seminars on the move, panting proof that a sound mind still springs from a sound body.

Oh, we would touch on past races or injuries or the ache of the day. But the bulk of the conversation was heavy and high-minded stuff, from school to politics, art, music, literature, families, and even sports. Humor was both a diversion and a prod to keep each other going. The worst sin was not pride but self-pity.

Ralph was our running guru because outside our relaxed presence he was obsessive. In 30 years, he put more than 100,000 miles on his long legs and ran over 100 races of marathon distance and longer.

As Rick puts it, Ralph is "the physically fit sage who combines an encyclopedic knowledge of running, runners, races and injuries with a holistic analytical perspective on running and the world."

I'll miss the focus that marathons provided, but I'll still join this rumpled, ragged, gang on Saturday mornings for runs of lesser distance and slower times - a weekly marriage of muscle and mind.
comments powered by Disqus
Supported By
Become an Underwriter | Find an Underwiter