Bill Harrison loves the Boston Marathon, but the Boston Marathon doesn’t always love him back.
He’s run eight Boston Marathons, but the last one he ran two years ago was a nightmare, though he still finished it despite a nasty cold. He never even made it to the starting line last year, though that was his own fault.
He had qualified for last year’s race alright, but then he forgot to register. You no register, you no qualify. You no qualify, you no run. Well, not Harrison anyway.
There’s a rule, you see, about having to qualify with a certain time in your age bracket in order to get a number, but it’s not strictly enforced and there are still plenty of runners who run the race without an official number. But not New Bedford’s Harrison, who runs strictly by the rules.
As for this year, so far, so good. He qualified and he remembered to register, and at least up to Friday, he was feeling pretty good, though he did sound a little antsy over the telephone. And there was still the weather to worry about.
“I’m not sick, thank God, and I didn’t forget to register,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get it done, but you never know. Hopefully, the weather will hold up and it won’t be too bad. I just heard a weather report that said there will be downpours. With rain, you worry about blisters.”
Harrison turned 73 last month and he does have some health issues, including two shoulder tears that give him some trouble, though he didn’t think that was worth mentioning (sorry, Bill). But his legs are still sturdy. This will be his ninth Boston Marathon and his 29th marathon overall.
He qualified for Monday’s marathon with a time of 4:01:39 in a marathon in Virginia and his training over the last couple of months has gone smoothly, though he is a little concerned that he ran only two long distance training runs of 18 and 21 miles instead of his customary three.
“I like to get three long runs in before running a marathon, but two’s not bad,” he mused, more to himself than to this writer. “I think I’ll be alright. And I had some good speed work in Atlanta.”
Oh yeah, his preparation for Boston included a week in Atlanta, Georgia, where he ran half-marathon (13.1 miles) tuneup race. He won his age group (70-74) with a very respectable 1:49:31, which averages out to 8:22 per mile. Not bad for a septuagenarian.
The Atlanta race also includes a 5k and a marathon, but the half-marathon is the main one and drew a field of 4,551. Harrison finished 642nd overall and 478th out of 2,300 males. Because of the heat down there, the race started at 7 a.m. when the temperature was 60 degrees, before warming up to 70 degrees.
Harrison hasn’t set any real goals for Monday in Boston, but admits he would like to run nine-minute miles.
“I’ll go out with a nine-minute pace (per mile) and see how it goes,” he said. “I’ll go as long as I can with that pace. If I can keep it the whole way, I’ll be thrilled. But a lot depends on the weather.”
That pace would also take him close to the qualifying time for next year’s race in his age bracket.
“I’d like to qualify for next year’s race,” he added. “I’d be thrilled if I can do that. But you never know. This might be my last marathon. It all depends. We’ll see how it goes.”
I think he said that two years ago, too. Hey, once a marathoner, always a marathoner. They’re like boxers. They never quit willingly.
Bob Hanna covers running for The Standard-Times. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org