It was 101 years ago that the Boston Marathon began on Patriot's Day here, Massachusetts' annual celebration to renew covenants with the ride of Paul Revere who ran his race on April 19, 1775. On Monday, with more than 2 million fans lining the course, the race begins with the favorites standing posed for a 26.2-mile jaunt at the starting line in Hopkinton. Behind them will be Utah state senator Dick Carling and Salt Lake County employee Manny Garcia and 53 other Utah adventurers in the nether world of running at this, the world's oldest annual marathon.
"I'll tell you," explains Carling, who is running his tenth consecutive Boston, "I just really enjoy it. It's an exciting place to be. The fans are unreal. The race is so well-organized and they treat everybody like celebrities whether you come in first or last."Indeed, the Boston Marathon, the mecca to which road runners journey if they are fast enough to qualify to race here, is the pinnacle of marathon experiences.
"For me it was kind of a natural evolution, says Garcia. "I started running three years ago and at the time the challenge was just to finish a five-kilometer race. And then it was a 10K race. When I ran a 3:03 last year at the St. George Marathon it surprised me as much as everyone. Now I'm running Boston for every guy I know above 40 years who has never got out and exercised. It's just something that everyone, regardless of his age, ought to try."
In fact, the Boston Marathon is dominated by a large quantity of older runners. Of the official 6,399 entrants who finished the race last year, the largest age group were the 1,354 men and women between 40 and 44.
Garcia fits right into the largest age group, and he, as well as Carling, who just turned 50 and hopes to place well in his age catgegory, say they glory in the chance to run with the world's best.
"The competition is unreal," says Carling. "I was the first American in my age group at the Honolulu Marathon last December, but it's going to be tougher here. If I want to get into the top three, where the awards are, I'll have to run in the low 2:40's."
Asked if he thought such a finish was possible, the state senator said, "You just never know. Every marathon seems like it's a new and different experience. Boston is so changeable. One year it will snow and the next year it will be 100 degrees and humid.
"A guy coming up from Australia to run is in the best condition because he's at the end of his racing season while those of us who live in North America are just now getting into the racing season," says Carling. "So that makes it tougher for us to compete well against those who live in the Southern Hemisphere."
The 43-year-old Garcia says he'll consider it a victory just to finish. "I'll just see how I feel when I get to mile 20," he says. "My wife, Diane (an age group winner in last year's Utah Grand Prix road racing circuit), will be at the 20-mile mark and help run me in. They say they welcome everyone on the course at Boston, and they let them cross the finish line along with the official registrants."
In fact, more than twice as many unofficial runners, those who have not qualified with low times at certified marathons, such as the Deseret News on July 24 or St. George on Oct.1, are welcomed at Boston. Even though they aren't able to get official numbers they run through the finish line, for some eight to 12 hours after the gun starts the race at noon.
"Boston is just such a good race," says Carling. "The first 10 miles are downhill and then you hit these four hills with the last hill, Heartbreak Hill, the toughest. Deseret News is a tough marathon but Little Mountain comes pretty early in the race. At Boston the hills are toward the end, and it's really tough on you. But when you get to those hills the people are lined along the route four to five deep and they're yelling out to you, encouraging you, and it's just got to be one of the biggest thrills any runner will ever experience."