Desisa, Jeptoo, Yamamoto, McFadden Tops

The running of the 2013 Boston Marathon was an exciting one. Ethopian Lelisa Desisa raced to the finish for the win with a time of 2:10:22, just five seconds ahead of second place finisher Micah Kogo of Kenya, and six seconds ahead of third place finisher Gebregziabher Gebremariam also of Kenya. 

The Women’s race wasn’t as close with Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo finishing more than 30 seconds before runner-up Meseret Hailu with a time of 2:26:25. 

The Men’s Wheelchair race was won by Hiroyuki Yamamoto of Japan with a time of 1:25:33. American Tatyana McFadden captured first place in the Women’s Wheelchair race with a time of 1:45:25.

Spokespersons Cross Finish in Wee Hours

By Loren Savini
BU News Service

BOSTON – More than 700 people gathered at South Station Sunday night to ride the train to Southborough. But these weren’t your average commuters. They came from all over Boston with their bicycles to ride in the 5th annual Midnight Marathon.

Founded five years ago by Greg Hum, the event gives cyclists the opportunity to ride the Boston Marathon route the night before the roads are blocked off for runners. Hum launched the ride via a Facebook group and the participants have almost doubled every year since, he said.

Hum, 25, works in IT support for Boston University. He came up with the idea for the ride when he was a student in the BU Bikes cycling club. The idea, Hum said, was to get his friends together and take a train to the starting line. Then, they would ride the marathon route in the dark all the way to the finish line.

Hum said his favorite part is boarding the train. “Half the fun is hoping on the train at South Station and packing hundreds of bikes on the train. You make new friends, you’re surrounded by hundreds of people, it feels really awesome,” he said. “It’s like this crazy pilgrimage.”

South Station began filling with a fleet of excited cyclists ready to complete the pilgrimage around 9 p.m. From there, they would be loaded onto a train that would take them to the starting line of the Boston Marathon – the first leg of their journey.

Participants gathered in groups with their friends, chatting enthusiastically and posing for pre-marathon photos. Some took advantage of the South Station food court – buying last minute bottles of water and carbo-loading at a nearby McDonald’s.

Andrew Hall, a 26-year-old Somerville resident and first time Midnight Marathon rider was among the first to arrive. “I’m a little nervous. I was going crazy just sitting in my apartment waiting, so that’s why I’m here so early,” he said, leaning on his bike and checking the time on his cellphone.

But the collection of riders made it clear that the night was going to be fun and anxiety free. A young girl wore neon green zebra spandex while another had a string of blinking LED lights draped around her shoulders. Many people had taken the time to attach speakers to their bikes or zip-tie glow sticks to their handlebars.

A young couple stood in line with a red, low-riding tandem bike in tow. A girl in line took notice and turned to her friends: “Aw, next year we’re doing tandem bikes, okay?”

Monty Montano, a genetics professor at Boston University arrived at South Station in a full Spiderman costume. “I’m looking forward to experiencing the route, to do it vicariously, to live it on a bike. And there’s something about midnight. There’s something charming about it,” Montano said before the race.

“Are you going to be warm enough?” Montano’s friend asked him, laughing at his costume. “Probably not,” he said with a shrug and a wide smile.

When the time came, Midnight Marathon volunteers directed the cyclists out of South Station onto the platform, where they would begin boarding the train to the start line in Hopkinton. A stampede of Bostonians with their bikes erupted from the station, tickets in hand. The riders filed out of a door sitting under a massive Bank of America advertisement that read, appropriately: “To new thinking.”

Four hours later, from the finish line, bicycle bells could be heard echoing in the corridors of Boston’s streets. The first wave of riders arrived around 1:00 a.m. cheering and laughing euphorically as they pulled past the empty bleachers and across the wide, blue finish line.

The street in front of Copley Square filled with cyclists as they finished their 26.2 mile bike ride and a celebration ensued. Riders arrived in waves, the more experienced riders finishing first. People collected in groups to take photos – hoisting their bikes over their heads victoriously or embracing across a jumble of wheels and handlebars as they hovered proudly over their bicycles. Hugs and handshakes were available to anyone and everyone who crossed the finish line.

Greg St. Mary, 32, pulled off to the side to stretch out his leg muscles before heading home. “It was super fun,” he said, beaming. “The initial downhills were intense, a lot of fun.” According to St. Mary, the event was so popular this year that he had to scalp a ticket to get on the train, which had sold out quickly.

Gregory Tierotola had just finished the marathon with his 25-year-old daughter, Amanda, and took a fatherly moment to congratulate her and recognize the bonding experience they had just had.

“She got on a bike just to do this with me,” Tierotola said proudly. Tierotola, 56, said he has been cycling since the age of 16 but this was his first time at the Midnight Marathon. “It was terrific. I don’t know what the runners complain about, it’s all downhill,” he joked.

Tierotola said his favorite part of the ride was seeing all of the bike lights around him. “We stopped at the top of a hill and turned around and saw all of the white lights twinkling, like fireflies.”

“This has been an amazing experience, I would definitely do it again,” he said. “Now I can say that I did the marathon.”

Timelapse of the Midnight Marathon, 2011
(shamiejerlock/Creative Commons)

Runners Served Pasta, Smiles

 Boston Chief of Public Property Michael Galvin (right) serves food to runners outside City Hall on Sunday evening during the annual pre-marathon pasta dinner. (Lisa Kashinsky/BU News Service)
Boston Chief of Public Property Michael Galvin (right) serves food to runners outside City Hall on Sunday evening during the annual pre-marathon pasta dinner. (Lisa Kashinsky/BU News Service)

By Lisa Kashinsky

BU News Service

City Hall was transformed into a sea of blue and yellow Sunday evening as thousands of runners donning their official race jackets poured into the sunlit plaza for the annual pre-marathon carbo-loading dinner.

Groups of Wellesley College students enthusiastically greeted runners, their families and friends, as they exited the Government Center T stop, causing many to break into grins. Music floated through the air as runners chatted animatedly while waiting to fuel up for the 117th Boston Marathon tomorrow morning, imbuing the plaza with a festive atmosphere.

“It’s a celebration of people who run,” said David Lindgren, 55, a Minneapolis resident who is running the marathon for the 11th time in a row this year. “It’s part of the ambiance of the whole event.”

More than 400 volunteers were on hand to help run the event and serve approximately 3,000 lbs of pasta to 9,000 guests this year—a third of the 27,000 total runners—according to event coordinator Melissa Goodhart.

“It’s a labor of love,” Goodhart said. “This is my 27th year doing this and I watched it grow from a 4,000 person thing into a big deal.”

Of the volunteers, 175 were Wellesley students, the mark of a longstanding tradition of student involvement with the race.

First time volunteer Stephanie Kim, a Wellesley senior, had a constant smile on her face as she directed runners through the waiting line for food.

“There’s a sense of camaraderie there that they’re going to be doing something amazing tomorrow and for us to be a part of it,” said Kim, 22. “One of them thanked me for volunteering and I was like, no, thank you!”

Wellesley College senior Jean Lee also said she enjoyed meeting the runners. Lee, 21, has volunteered at the pasta party dinner for four years and has been a coordinator for the last three.

“It’s very different than cheering them on during the marathon,” Lee said. “Here you actually get to interact with them. They’re very supportive of us. They love Wellesley and the Wellesley scream tunnel.”

Lindgren grinned as he spoke about the signs made by Wellesley students in the tunnel, many of which include phrases about kissing.

“The fan support is fantastic,” he said. “You don’t go very far without hearing someone cheering for you.”

Boston’s Chief of Property Management Michael Galvin gave runners encouragement and support from the city as he spoke on behalf of Mayor Thomas Menino, who was in the hospital undergoing surgery for a leg injury.

Other speakers included 1973 Boston Marathon champion Jacqueline Hansen and 1983 winner Greg Meyer, the last American male to win the event. The speakers joined volunteers in serving pasta, salad and rolls of bread to runners.

Meyer plans to join Lindgren and a sea of other repeat runners who are racing either professionally or for charity. While Lindgren said he has qualified in the past, he is running this year as part of the American Medical Athletic Association.

“It’s wonderful wandering through the New England countryside,” Lindgren said. “This is my 116th marathon and Boston is my favorite.”

Running in Memory of a Friend

By Rima Butto
BU News Service

Five years of running the Boston Marathon and raising more than $60,000 for cancer patients has not worn Ashley Zolenski out. Her sixth marathon may be the most important as she is running in honor of her friend, Jamie Riehle, who died from cancer last fall.

Zolenski, 30, of Cleveland Circle, is to raise money for the Cancer Patient Support Services Fund at Boston Medical Center (BMC). Since 2008, she has raised more than $60,000 for the cause.

Ashley Zolenski is set to run her sixths marathon. (Rima Butto/BU News Service)
Ashley Zolenski is set to run her sixths marathon. (Rima Butto/BU News Service)

“The biggest inspiration for me is thinking about all the people who are going to benefit from the money that’s raised,” Zolenski said.

When she worked in BMC’s development and fundraising office in 2008, Zolenski organized the hospital’s charity marathon team. After first cheering on the runners, she decided to participate in the run the following year and started training in December.

It was through organizing the team that Zolenski met Riehle, a cancer patient who founded and ran one of the patient support groups. The two were friends for three years before mouth cancer took his life in 2012.

Hesitant about running for her sixth time, Riehle’s passing motivated Zolenski to continue the tradition. “He was always really strong and would never complain,” she said. “If Jamie could go through all that, the least I could do is run a marathon and raise money for the fund that was really important to him.”

Cancer patients at BMC frequently come from low economic backgrounds, and the money she raises helps provide patient transportation to and from the hospital.

“I think of how lucky I am because I’m healthy and I can do this,” she said.

Though it was difficult to train in the middle of winter, her hard work paid off when she completed her first marathon.

“It’s incredible how many people come out and support you and cheer you on,” Zolenski said.

Challenges have come to Zolenski in the form of injury. But even an undetected stress fracture one year ago did not stop her from running the full marathon trail.

However, Zolenski does not consider her achievements particularly extraordinary. “I always like to say, if I can do it, anyone can,” she said. “I don’t try to make a big deal out of it.”

Zolenski garners support from her friends and family in her fundraising efforts, and said she is amazed at her peers’ generosity. Though she has to raise a minimum of $5000 to run, she has reached double that goal every year.

She explained that though her peers are willing and happy to help, she finds that she needs to be persistent in her efforts as people often forget to donate. “It’s kind of a challenge, but it’s worth it,” she said.

No stranger to encouraging donations to a good cause, Zolenski works in fundraising for higher education institutions. She reaches out to alumnae who can donate major gifts to the school, which improve campus programs and ultimately encourage student success.

Before her embarking on her professional career, Zolenski served as president of her class at Westfield State College, where she was in charge of canned food drives and other events to raise money.

“I’ve always been used to helping raise money and philanthropy work,” Zolenski said. “So I guess I’m meant to do this,” she adds with a smile.

Zolenski says if Riehl were still living, he would be happy she was still running the marathon. “It’s fun. I can’t wait for Monday.”

Medical Staff Ready for Annual Assist

By Sarah Platt
BU News Service

Sisters Kim Binsfield and Sheila Sjosfelt prep medical supplies before the race. (Natalie Covate/BU News Service)
Sisters Kim Binsfield and Sheila Sjosfelt prep medical supplies before the race. (Natalie Covate/BU News Service)

After a marathon last year that forced runners into medical tents and out of the race due to high heat, this year’s runners and medical staff are looking forward to a more routine event.

The forecast for Monday’s race is cooler, and runners hope that will help their chances of finishing uninjured.

“No one wants to get injured during the race,” said Jacob Nurr, 55, who is running in the Boston Marathon this year.  “We all hope to run our best and come out of it with our bodies intact.”

Last year was a different story. Marathon runners faced high temperatures that forced some, like Jacob Owen to drop out of the race.

“It was so hot, I couldn’t finish it,” Owen said. “I thought I was having a heart attack or something. It was the only marathon so far that I couldn’t will my body to finish.”

This time the weather shouldn’t be as extreme.

“This year is pretty near the ideal condition for running,” Owen said. “There shouldn’t be any issues from the weather that the medical team has to worry about.”

Last year’s high temperatures forced an additional medical to be opened in order to accommodate the number of runners who needed medical attention.

According to the Boston Athletic Association, about 500 bags of ice, 4,000 Band-Aids and 500 tubes of petroleum jelly will be used on race day. The runners will be served by more than one thousand medical personnel.

“They are very good at what they do,” said Owen, who has run the Boston Marathon five times. “They plan very well, and take good care of the runners.”

There will be medical tents at the start of the race where runners can get “Band-Aids, Vaseline, a pre-race stretch or just a word of encouragement,” according to the Boston Athletic Association.

The Red Cross has also provided over 20 medical aid stations along the course for first aid needs.

Two teams will await runners at the finish line, providing any medical attention runners may need after completing the grueling 26.2 miles.

But the injuries from the race shouldn’t have anything to do with the weather.

“The wind will be a problem, but really injuries will probably be blisters, muscle strains or things like that,” said Nur, who has run marathons all over the U.S. “Nothing like the overheating that was seen last year.”

“We’ll be able to handle it, and hopefully nobody has too rough of a race. If not, then the medical team will take over, and they always do a great job.”

Clean Sweep: Crews Tidy Up After Race

Runners pass through sprinklers and discarded cups at last year's marathon. (Emily Zendt/BU News Service)
Runners pass through sprinklers and discarded cups at last year’s marathon. (Emily Zendt/BU News Service)

Andrew Cosentino
BU News Service

 The Boston Marathon, now in its 117th year, is an annual celebration that draws thousands of spectators, world-class runners and lots of garbage to clean up after they have crossed the finish line.

During the course of the race, more than 25,000 feet of ribbon and over 1 million paper cups are used.  And in order for a mob of local and national media outlets to cover the race, 500KW of power is spent, mostly at the start and finish lines.

With all the resources being used and disposed of on race day, how does Boston manage to clean up after the festivities?

An army of volunteers, from both inside and outside of the city, work with Boston city maintenance workers clear out the debris and return the city to normal by Tuesday.

“It’s a pigsty at the beginning, when the majority of runners are reaching the finish line,” says Boston maintenance worker Jermaine Williams. “[You] can’t look anywhere without seeing a thousand cups on the ground.”

But apparently this does not last long.  “It’s amazing how quickly things start to look better,”  says Back Bay resident Kathy O’Connor, who started volunteering with the race clean up team two years ago. “We do a lot of composting and recycling after the race.”

Keeping the race environmentally friendly has proved to be a challenge, but despite its large carbon footprint, the marathon has been getting gradually greener every year.

Team Rett Runs for a Cure

Erica and Ryan Robertson have a daugher with Rett Syndrome. Erica will run the marathon to raise funds for research. (Michaela Bedell/BU News Service
Erica and Ryan Robertson have a daugher with Rett Syndrome. Erica will run the marathon to raise funds for research. (Michaela Bedell/BU News Service

By Micaela Bedell
BU News Service

This time last April, Erica Robertson wasn’t a runner. Now hopes drives her every step.

She will run this year’s Boston marathon, raising money for research for a rare developmental disease that affects about 1 in 10,000 young girls, including Avery, Robertson’s daughter

Since her diagnosis at age 3, she’s lost most of her motor skills and the small vocabulary she once had. Avery, now 6 years old, is still in diapers, must be spoon fed her meals, and dressed and bathed by Robertson and her husband, Ryan.

“On my worst days, when Avery’s just having a hard time and it’s so sad and devastating, I just think there’s somebody right now working on fixing Rett syndrome,” says Robertson. “Right now, there’s somebody working on it. And tomorrow there will be. And yesterday there was. It just provides so much hope for me.”

That’s what Team Rett is for Robertson, and for the many families that have come from across the country to also run on the team. Hope. The more than $120 thousand they’ve raised so far will fund a research project by The Whitehead Institute at MIT, which will use stem cells to examine how Rett cells react to existing drugs, and move the search for a cure that much farther along.

Ryan Roberston says that when his wife first said she was going to run, “I didn’t really think it was possible because she wasn’t really a runner.”

“She’s trained herself into being a runner which is kind of extraordinary to see,” says Ryan. “It’s the perfect example of never say never.”

Training for a marathon is hard enough for someone with an everyday life, but Avery requires constant attention and supervision. Erica Robertson looks at the marathon as a celebration of months of hard training and sacrifices.

“It’s a sucky disorder to be dealt – especially for Avery because she’s just trapped in her body and she can’t do what she wants to do,” she says. “But of all the things that could have happened I think that we kind of got lucky. I know that it sounds weird to say that, but I really, truly believe in my heart that they’re going to fix it. And that day is going to be pretty sweet.”

Running gives Erica something to strive for, something to help her move forward – both literally, with the marathon, and figuratively in her search for the cure.


City Sees Financial Boost from Race

A huge influx of runners and their supporters fill hotel rooms, restaurants and businesses in the Boston area. (BU News Service)
A huge influx of runners and their supporters fill hotel rooms, restaurants and businesses in the Boston area. (BU News Service)

By Molly Koweek
BU News Service

Thousands of runners and their supporters are arriving in the city from near and far for the 117th Boston Marathon. They’ve booked flights, made hotel reservations and registered for the race. Clearly an event this big has a large impact on the city. Just how large is the impact?

This year, the Marathon is expected to bring in $142 million to the city, according to the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau. This is a $5 million increase from the 2012 race.

However, there are a lot of costs associated with running the Marathon. Expenses include public safety and crowd control, parks and recreation departments, medical resources, transportation, and administrative costs and rental fees. These expenses can total 80 percent of marathon costs, according to Jack Fleming, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Boston Athletic Association.

Most people coming to the city for the Marathon stay an average of three nights, said Kelly Allen, Sales Manager at Marathon Tours, a company that puts together packages for runners and their family and friends. Hotel rates run from $174 to $410 a night. Currently, they’re all booked.

Boston businesses feel the influx of tourists in the city around the marathon. City Sports on Boylston Street, right near the finish line, sees heavy traffic in the store in the weekend leading up to the race. “We open early, and close late,” said Kristy McLean, store manager at City Sports. The Sunday before the marathon sees more customers than any day during the holiday season, she said.

What about the eight communities that the Marathon runs through? Over the next three years, they’ll be receiving $2.7 million. “Through the support of principal sponsor John Hancock Financial, the [Boston Athletic Association] makes this contribution in recognition and appreciation of successful cooperation with the Marathon communities in hosting the world’s most prestigious annual marathon,” a press release from the B.A.A. notes.

John Hancock Financial isn’t only giving out money to the communities. The top finishers will be the recipients of $806,000, according to a B.A.A press release. An additional $220,000 in bonuses will be distributed if participants break records in the open, masters, or push rim wheelchair divisions, according to

Additionally, charities benefit from the marathon. This year’s marathon marks the 25th anniversary of the Official Charity Program. “Through this program and John Hancock’s Non-Profit Bib Program for the Boston Marathon, the selected charities of the Boston Marathon Official Charity Program raise more than $16 million each year to serve areas of need in the Greater Boston area,” according to the B.A.A. “Over the past 27 years, the official B.A.A. and John Hancock Non-Profit Programs have combined to raise more than $150 million for community organizations.”

Runners pay an entry fee of $150, however, the B.A.A. understands that runners and supporters also are “looking forward to coming to Boston for the first time to experience all that we have here,” Fleming said.

Officially registered marathon participants will receive the Runner Passport(TM.) This includes tourist supplies such as maps and visitor suggestions to guide them around the city. “Most importantly, the booklet includes the number pick-up card,” the B.A.A press release said.

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.”