Runner Racks Up Miles

Arnie James plans to run his 144th marathon. (Selin Thomas/BU News Service)
Arnie James plans to run his 144th marathon. (Selin Thomas/BU News Service)

By Selin Thomas
BU News Service

Arnie James, a 69-year-old Boston native and self-proclaimed “dude,” plans to cross the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line with 3,772.8 racing miles under his belt, totaling 144 marathons he’s run in cities around the globe.

His home is crowded with running paraphernalia, photos of his daughter throughout her 25 years. Seven pairs of running shoes, stained, frayed and discolored, are neatly stacked beneath a shrine of medals in his kitchen, all 143 surrounding a photo of him in action.

“Heartbreak Hill is a myth. Even after this coronary,” he jokes, as he points to the long, jagged scar on the left side of his neck. “My heart treks right through it.”

James’ pre-race routine includes tea, spaghetti, a barbeque with friends and neatly laying out the clothes, supplies and good luck charms he’ll need for race day.

He exudes a calm light-heartedness about long-distance running, a form he has learned to execute with a smile.

“A lot of people think about getting tired before they even start, but that’s a negative attitude. Don’t think about getting tired until you get tired, then force yourself to think about something else,” he advises.

Although his experience with marathons gives him an advantage over the physical and mental aches that hit him around mile 7, he says it is always difficult to run a marathon. He has three scheduled next month.

The camaraderie of the running culture is what draws James back again and again. Friends he has known since his first New York City marathon 24 years ago, friends he meets at the starting line every year, friends who never utter a word but run alongside each other for 20 miles are a part of his fondest memories.

“It is rare to see people come together the way they do for running. Marathoners are the most unassuming of athletes,” he whispers wryly.

James does three training runs a week in the early season. He runs one marathon a week during his peak season.

He is anticipating a relaxed Boston Marathon, and laughs when he calculates the mileage he’ll be adding to his impressive record. “After 25 years of this stuff, I just go for the finish. I’ll break a leg, but I’ll finish.”

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