In this podcast episode we bring you inspiring stories from this year’s Boston Marathon. Plus we will give you a run-down of the final results and soundbites from race weekend. And in the quick tip segment, Angie answers a question about what officially counts as a marathon or half marathon.
2019 was the 123rd edition of the Boston Marathon. There are around 500,000 spectators who come out every year to cheer on the 30,000 plus runners. This provides a nearly 200 million dollar boost to the local economy.
The Boston Marathon is hosted by the Boston Athletic Association which was established in 1887. In 1897 the BAA hosted a 24.5-mile road race for 15 participants (only 10 finished). In 1924 the course was lengthened to 26 miles, 385 yards to conform to the new Olympic standard.
The BAA’s symbol is the unicorn and it still appears on today’s marathon medals. Official Boston colors are yellow and blue.
Around 9,700 volunteers work the Boston Marathon each year.
Most of the race is run outside of Boston. The course starts in Hopkinton and goes through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, and Brookline before entering Boston at mile 24.
The BAA reserves around 3,000 spots (of 30,000) for its charity runners. Participants who ran on behalf of more than 260 non-profit organizations raised $36.6 million for charity at the 2018 Boston Marathon and figures will probably be similar this year.
Heartbreak Hill, one of the most iconic features of the course, comes between miles 20-21 after the Newton Hills. Although it’s only a 91 feet climb the name started after the 1936 race when runner Johnny Kelley patted fellow runner Tarzan Brown on the back as he passed him. This spurred Tarzan Brown into action and he went on to win the race (thereby “breaking” Kelley’s heart near that hill).
The marathon wasn’t always on a Monday. Up until 1969 the race was always on April 19th, Patriot’s Day, a civic holiday commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord during the American Revolution. In 1969 officials changed the race to always be the third Monday in April which is known as Marathon Monday.
The mantra “Boston Strong” came about after two bombs exploded at the finish line in 2013 which killed two people and injured 260 others. The city of Boston responded by more than a million spectators coming out to support the 2014 race in which Meb Keflezhighi wrote the names of the victims on his bib and went on to win the race. (2)
It continues to get more challenging to get into Boston with a qualifying time. A total of 30,458 applications were received for qualifiers, a significant increase from recent years. 7,384 qualifiers were unable to be accepted due to field size limitations. Qualifiers who were four minutes, 52 seconds (4:52) or faster than the qualifying time for their age group and gender were accepted into the 2019 race. Qualifying standards will be five minutes faster for all age groups, starting with the 2020 Boston Marathon.
The men’s pack stayed together until around mile 21 when Geoffrey Kirui dropped the pace from 5:06 to 4:31 and the lead pack dropped down to five. Then there was an exciting sprint finish down the length of Boylston St. for the third closest men’s race ever.
- 1st- Lawrence Cherono (Kenya) in 2:07:57 (he said,” I was so focused because I’ve never won a major marathon”),
- 2nd- Lelisa Desisa (Ethiopia) in 2:07:59 (who said that this was the first time he’s ever been outsprinted),
- 3rd- Kenneth Kipkemoi (Kenya) 2:08:07.
- The first American was Scott Fauble in seventh with 2:09:09 and Jared Ward, who finished eighth in 2:09:25 with a PR.
Worknish Degefa of Ethiopia took the lead around mile 4 and would go on to expand this lead to 3 minutes by mile 18.
- 1st- Worknish Degefa winning time was 2:23:31
- 2nd- Edna Kiplagat of Kenya, 2:24:13.
- 3rd-American Jordan Hasay posted a time of 2:25:20.
- Des Linden the defending champion finished 5th in 2:27:00
- 1st- Daniel Romanchuk (USA) 1:21:36
- 2nd- Masazumi Soejima (Japan) 1:24:30
- 3rd- Marcel Hug (Switzerland) 1:26:42
- 1st- Manuela Schar (Switzerland) 1:34:19
- 2nd- Tatyana McFadden (USA) 1:42:35 (at one point she tipped over in her wheelchair)
- 3rd- Madison de Rozario (Australia) 1:41:36
Notable and Inspiring Finishers
Joan Benoit Samuelson
Joan Samuelson, age 61, finished in 3:04. She made history 40 years ago with a 2:35:15 Boston finish, enough to win Boston and break the course record. This year, to celebrate the 40th anniversary, she planned to run within 40 minutes of her record-breaking time. She did better and finished within 30 minutes of that goal.
Glen Dykes, age 71, broke his own age-group record, posting the fastest course time for a 70-to-74-year-old with a time of 2:58:50. This is after some pretty huge races earlier in the year like the Arches Ultra 50 Miler in Moab in late January, and then the 200-mile Delirious Western Endurance Scenic Trail race in Australia three weeks later. That one took him 101 hours to complete, including five encounters with venomous snakes. “At one point, I spotted a Tiger snake below me when I was in mid-stride,” he recalls. “I had to twist my body and throw myself into the underbrush to avoid it. But these ultra distance adventure runs are great fun, especially when they include sleep deprivation. You get flashbacks afterwards—the good kind.” (3)
Stephen VanGampleareThe non-elite man who finished 1st is a Colorado engineer named Stephen VanGampleare who ran a massive PR of 2:18:40, the 26th fastest time of the day. He was initially disappointed by the BAA’s change which started Wave 1 two minutes after the elite men. He not only finished as the top amateur in the race, he also qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials in the process.
Adrianne Haslet is a survivor who lost her left leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line bombings and had been training to run this year’s marathon. But she was struck by a car while in a crosswalk in January. Despite this tough new challenge she persevered in getting back to running, and ran the BAA 5K, her first race back. “I wanted to run this race so badly. I may have walked, but I never gave up.” (4)
Ben Beach is one of the Boston Marathon Legacy runners and ran his first Boston Marathon at age 18 in 1968. He is now 69 and suffers from a rare neurological disorder that sends his lower leg extended sideways and nearly parallel to the ground with each stride. “I’ve made my peace with that. This is what running is like for me now.” His Boston personal best of 2:27:26 was set in 1981. He finished this year in just over 6 hours after dealing with cramping for more than half the race.
“I feel good about the streak,” he said. “And I don’t want it to end. I’m struck by how adaptive human beings are. Runners know that the even slightest imbalance will almost guarantee an injury, but here I am, still bumbling along. The way my body has adjusted – it amazes me. I intend to be back in Hopkinton next April and to make up for this lackluster performance,” (5)
Marko Cheseto is a double amputee who lost both his legs about six inches below the knee to frostbite in 2011. Originally from Kenya, he had come to study at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. In his senior year, deeply upset over the suicide of another UAA runner from Kenya, Cheseto overdosed on pills and disappeared into the woods around the UAA campus. He was the subject of a massive search and rescue operation. On the third day he stumbled into a hotel near the campus with his shoes frozen to his feet. After his recovery Cheseto remained in Anchorage, graduated with a degree in nutrition, got married, had three children, and has become an American citizen. Eighteen months after losing his feet, he resumed running once he was fitted with a pair of running blades.
“One thing I just told myself was the condition that I have is just a phenomenon that happened in my life,” Cheseto said on Marathon Monday. “It does not define who I am. I still have my inner power.” He finished in 2:42 with a new PR. His goal is to run a sub-2:10 marathon. (6)
Michael Herndon, age 31, a Marine veteran from Ohio was the picture of determination. His legs locked up near mile 22 forcing the Afghanistan veteran to eventually get down on his hands and knees to crawl. He refused to give up, drawing inspiration from three fellow comrades who didn’t survive a bombing attack overseas. Herndon’s fellow Marines Matthew Ballard and Mark Juarez and British journalist Rupert Hamer died in 2010 from an improvised explosive device’s blast in Afghanistan. When his Achilles tendon starting giving him trouble on Monday and his legs gave out near the end of the race, Herndon chanted his fallen comrades’ names aloud to help himself focus on finishing.
Once Herndon crossed the finish line, he was lifted into a wheelchair to receive medical attention. This was his first marathon which he finished in 3:38 and he’s determined that it won’t be his last. He said this about his inspiration, “They are not here anymore. I am here, and I am able. I am lucky to still have all my limbs. I can still be active. I find fuel in the simple idea that I can run. Some cannot.” (8)
Boston race director Dave McGillivray has the tradition that each year after he completes his duties he runs the race himself. He’s run the Boston Marathon for 46 consecutive years (16 years as a regular runner and 30 years after the race as the race director) and this year he brought it up to 47 times (he’s run 157 marathons in total). This year’s marathon came just six months after triple bypass surgery. “I would definitely put it up there as the toughest one and the most challenging,” McGillivray said. “But it probably was the most special, given that I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.” The 64-year-old ran Boston this year for Team Big Heart and raised over $100,000 to create awareness about heart illness. “My mission now in life is to create an awareness that just because you’re fit, doesn’t mean you’re healthy, and that if you feel something, do something about it,” he said. “There were times in my life when I thought I was invincible, and I never thought they were warning pains. I just thought they were challenging pains. And now I realize there are warning pains out there, and you have to really recognize the difference and act on them. That’s what I did, and, as a result, I gave myself a second chance.”(9)
Also Mentioned in This Episode
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Trevor’s Boston Trip
Trevor had a chance to go and cheers on the runners this year. The highlight of his trip was meeting up with listeners to the podcast. Big thanks to Coach Steve Waldon, Mitch Goldstein, Tom and Cari Hardin, Henry Howard and his wife Manju and mother-in-law Karen, Logan Collier and her friend Rachel, Mike Emmerling and his son Mike, Randy Mays, Beck Straley, Karima Modjadidi, Ingrid Sell-Boccelli, and Lena Katharina for coming to the MTA Meet Up!