Local runner conquers famous Boston Marathon
Established in 1897, the Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, and one of the most popular road racing events on the globe. Over 20,000 top-notch athletes qualify to run the race each year, and over 500,000 spectators line the 26-mile course to cheer on the participants.
This year, on April 16 - known as Marathon Monday to Boston natives - Merritt runner Kevin Black competed in the historic event against the world’s fastest runners and finished in the top ten per cent of the field.
“This was a once in a lifetime event for me,” said Black who only started running two years ago. “The energy level is electric.”
When Black started running officially on Jan. 15, 2010, he meant simply to make a lifestyle change, not necessarily compete in the race that is on every serious runner’s “bucket list.”
Though an athlete when he was younger, Black said he was definitely not a runner.
“I wouldn’t even run down the block,” he jokes now.
While it took a bit of time to get used to running solo after his history of team sports, Black soon got used to the long, lonely training runs and things took off from there.
Soon he had signed up for the 2010 San Francisco marathon, which he completed in 3:26.51. He followed that race with another - the 2011 California International in Sacramento - which he finished with a personal best of 3:06.53 (nearly 20 minutes faster than the first). It qualified him for the famed Boston Marathon this year.
In the interval between Sacramento and Boston, Black, who works as the School District 58 secretary-treasurer, meant to run two more marathons, but lost three and a half months of training when he pulled his hamstring.
“It was frustrating not being able to train for a while, but I went to rehab and eventually got back to it,” he said.
Leading up to Boston, Black said he wasn’t sure what to expect.
“I’d like to do well, but I guess I need to go run with a smile on my face, happy that I get to run the Boston Marathon.”
This attitude was reinforced, when days before the race, organizers sent out a couple of disclaimer emails warning racers of unusually high temperature predictions. The emails warned runners to enjoy the experience rather than trying for a personal best, and even gave them the option to defer till next year. Black said that, in fact. nearly 4,000 people chose to do so.
Weather forecasts were spot on, because race day temperatures soared, reaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 32 degrees Celsius) compared to 56 degrees Fahrenheit in 2011.
Black, and the other runners who were bused to the start line, had to wait several hours in the heat. He said that it felt like he had already run 10 kilometres by the time the race began for him around 10 a.m.
“After the first couple of miles, I still felt like I could do really well, but by the third mile reality set in and I thought I better just enjoy the day,” he said.
And there certainly was a lot to enjoy. Along the course, spectators cheered the runners on and many offered them ice, oranges and even popsicles to cool them down.
The local fire department had hooked up the hydrants so they sprayed water on the runners as they went past. Black said the energy was intense as he passed the “mile of screams” - a stretch of the course that goes by an all-girls college where students hold signs and offer the runners kisses as they run past.
Cresting the top of Heartbreak Hill — an 88 foot ascent over 0.4 miles between mile 20 and 21 — was another milestone moment along the course.
“These are experiences I won’t forget,” he said. “For me, it was a big day.”
Nearing the finish line, Black was reminded how lucky he was to finish the race when he saw a man carried away on a stretcher only 800 metres from the end.
“Normally, I would have sprinted, but I jogged in with my hands over my head, just satisfied to have finished.”
In the end, Black clocked a time of 3:25.14, which placed him 2,416 out of the 22,480 runners who started the marathon.
Though he’d love to return to Boston and try to beat his time, Black says he may be scaling things back a little to spend time with his wife and three young children, who have been nothing but supportive since he started running. They were there when he ran his first marathon in San Francisco, and they were there in Boston, waving at him from Mile 16 as he ran by.
In fact, next month, Black will have the chance to support his wife, Diane, who seems to have caught the running bug from him. She is scheduled to compete in her first half-marathon at the BMO Marathon in Vancouver in May.