Runners ready for Boston

Running and Racing: Christopher Goss
March, 2001

As long as I can remember, I have listened to Indianapolis 500 every May on the radio, but I have never met anyone who has actually driven in the race.

I watched Larry Bird and Magic Johnson build the NBA with their exciting championship clashes, but I don't know anyone who has even played horse with one of these guys.

Even though I spent spring break in Disney World, I didn't shake hands with anyone wearing a Super Bowl ring.

I have, however, met folks who have run in the most prestigious marathon in the world, the Boston Marathon. In fact, I run with at least a couple of them every day.

When it comes to marathons, there is none more celebrated than the Boston Marathon. For 104 years, runners from around the world have made their way to Hopkinton, Mass., to begin the final 26.2 miles of their pilgrimage to the mecca of the finish line on Boylston Street in downtown Boston.

Because of the attraction resulting from the race's long tradition and mystique, Boston is one of the few races in the country with a qualifying standard. You don't get to try Boston for your first marathon. You have to show your mettle first by running fast enough at another race.

The Magnificent 7 area will be proudly represented in the 105th running of the Boston Marathon April 16 by no fewer than 11 runners — quite an accomplishment considering the entry standards and the size of our running community.

Bloomington's Bob Furnish and Tom Varns are the veterans of the group.

Furnish will be running in his 17th Boston Marathon. It will be his 94th marathon overall. That is 2,463 miles of racing for those of you keeping score.

Varns first made the trek to Boston in 1984. The siren call of the challenging course drew him back 10 years later as it has for the last eight years in a row. Varns' reward comes from "the satisfaction of having completed the world's oldest marathon."

Fellow Bloomington running buddies Heather May, Jean Whitlock and Bob Andree will be taking their first crack at the race and its tortuous series of hills culminating with the world famous Heartbreak Hill at mile 20.

For May, Boston "is the holy grail of distance running."

"It means so much to me that I have qualified", May said. "I am looking forward to just experiencing the race and soaking up as much of the environment as possible."

Whitlock qualified for Boston at her first marathon in Chicago last fall. She, too, is looking forward to experiencing the crowd — "especially running through Wellesley."

One of Boston's best traditions is the deafening tunnel of screams from the students of Wellesley College near the 12-mile point in the race. This is an experience that I would also rate as one of the most exciting in all my years of running.

Andree has been a fixture of the local running scene for many years and a veteran of eight marathons, but the qualifying standard eluded him until the Cour d'Alene Marathon in Idaho last May. A well versed student of the history of distance running, Andree is "looking forward to hanging out and meeting other runners."

"I had a geometry teacher who was a runner and shared names with Boston's Bill Rodgers who won the first of his four Boston Marathons in 1975," Andree explained. "That coincidence is one of the things that sparked my interest in running."

There are no doubts about who holds court in Boston on Patriot's Day. Rodgers is a legend in that community and is given the keys to the city for a weekend. Another one of those great Boston Marathon traditions is a stop by his running store on the day following the race for a handshake and an autograph.

Linda Branstetter and I both happened to run our first Boston in 1999 but had to miss last year. For her second tour through the towns of Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston, Branstetter is "looking forward to the thrill of the whole experience."

"The race is so well organized," she noted. "It will be fun to have a group from this area all running in the race."

Bloomington's Jill Boerigter will also be toeing the starting line, along with Nashville's Kathy and Michael Lewis and Martinsville's Stacy Uliana.

For me, I am looking forward to getting another chance at the challenges the Boston course presents. I was thoroughly humbled my first time out and I am eager to see if I really learned anything from that experience. And as my racemates have noted, there is absolutely nothing like the crowds along the roads during this race — 26 miles of solid, fantastic support.

None of us, of course, will be challenging for any awards, but we will be there — sharing the course with the world's greatest runners. You may not know any famous race drivers, basketball players, or football players, but you can say that you work and play with 11 competitors from the world's premier running event, the Boston Marathon.

Carpe viam.