Boston Marathon: Fifty Consecutive Times

AJW's TaproomIn the spring of 1967, 17-year-old high-school senior Ben Beach laid on his bed at Governor Dummer Academy and listened in awe to the radio coverage of the Boston Marathon. That year, just over 1,000 runners made the journey from Hopkinton to Boston and as Beach was taking in the action from the comfort of his dorm room he thought, I need to do that.

The next year, as an 18-year-old freshman at Harvard University, Beach registered for the marathon and did his best to train his body to finish. Among his unorthodox training methods that year was running a brisk 20 miler two days before the race and consuming a 16-ounce steak in his school dining hall the evening before. On that Patriots’ Day in 1968, Ben Beach completed the Boston Marathon in 3:23:50 and thus began the longest current Boston Marathon running streak.

This past Monday, as he has done every Patriots’ Day for the past 50 years, Beach ran Boston. He completed the race in just over five hours but these days it’s about way more than a finishing time for Beach, it’s about the joy of simply being out there running. Boston is, as Beach has said repeatedly over the years, “Just in my blood.”

Over the last half century along the route from Hopkinton to Boston, Beach has run a personal best time of 2:27:26 in 1981 and achieved a best placement of 34th in 1986. In 2002, after 35 consecutive trips down the course, Beach was diagnosed with dystonia, a movement disorder that can cause involuntary and uncontrollable muscle contractions and cramping. And, while this condition has slowed him down, for 15 years since his diagnosis, he has maintained the streak.

In 2012 Beach began, for the first time, to flirt with the six-hour cutoff time, each year getting slightly slower. However, this past Monday, he surprised himself and many others finishing in 5:01:26 with almost an hour to spare. In an interview after the race, Beach admitted that it gets harder every year but that he loves it. And, indeed he does have his eye on Johnny Kelley’s all-time record of 58 Bostons, which awaits Beach in his mid-seventies.

In reflecting on Beach’s accomplishment, I can’t help but admire his consistency. When you stop to think about it, how can one not be in awe of doing anything, much less running a marathon, for 50 consecutive years? It’s just amazing! In life, there are so many times that success seems fleeting, that the ‘flavor of the month’ tends to win out over all else, and that our day-to-day existence becomes scattered and disparate. In those chaotic times, running provides focus. It gives us a place where we can find our center and a place we can return to time after time, year after year. A place that, even after 50 consecutive years, continues to propel us forward and inspire us to be better. Thanks, Ben Beach!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Hill Farmstead BreweryEarlier this month I was fortunate to receive a wonderful care package from a friend in Vermont. In the package were four delicious sample bottles from Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro, Vermont. Consistently recognized as one of America’s best craft breweries, the Hill brothers make truly outstanding beer. One particularly good one is this week’s Beer of the Week, Hill Farmstead’s Anna. An unfiltered Honey Ale, Anna is a perfectly balanced ale with a touch of sweet spiciness that is simply delicious. Coupled with some meat off the grill, this beer is simply irresistible.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Let’s hear some stories from this year’s Boston Marathon!
  • Were you there as a runner, to support friends and family, or to spectate?
  • Is running Boston one of your life running goals?

There are 14 comments

  1. Quigley

    Thanks for writing about Ben Beach. His running is inspirational. I often see him out on the trails and he is always smiling and happy, which is especially incredible given his movement disorder. Honestly, I am surprised he can even make it a mile, and I never would have guessed he could run a 10 k let alone Boston for 50 years in a row. I have seen him fairly regularly over the last couple years, and his one leg looks really, really bad like a wet noodle when he is moving forward so that it seems certain he will face plant with each step. I smile and wave but only recently with the media attention did I learn his incredible story. It is all about smiling and moving forward. I can’t wait to run Boston for the first time next year.

  2. John Vanderpot

    AJW, Ian, Meghan, some other keeper of the tribe’s records, what are the trail/ultra equivalents here? As in, who has done what decade after decade without a miss?

    Curiously,

    JV

    PS — I believe 85 y/o Hal Winton’s done Avalon 50M 35 yrs. in a row — is that the record?

      1. Greg

        Duane Rosenberg has 36 consecutive finishes at JFK and 38 total finishes. He has the record for consecutive finishes there.

        Kim Byron has 48 (yes, that is 48 -no typo there!) finishes at JFK but missed one year due to military obligations I believe so he doesn’t have the consecutive finishes.

        I also thought I saw something about Tim Twietmeyer running American River quite a few years in a row. Someone more familiar with the race could probably add to that.

          1. John Vanderpot

            I know the primary focus is often on fast when it comes to running, but these are incredible feats of endurance that, as a very middle middle-age guy coming late to the party, I find just incredibly inspiring…it’s since occurred to me Jussi (last name?) had something like 27-8 (?) in a row at AC, and wasn’t there a guy with 30 at Leadville?

            Thanks,

            JV

  3. AJW

    Twiet has 37 consecutive AR50 finishes.
    Jussi has 28 consecutive AC100 finishes.
    Ian Torrence has 23 consecutive JFK finishes and is currently just 42 years old.

    1. Sean

      Ian has 23 consecutive JFK starts, but unfortunately, not finishes (reference 2007 results for clarification). Also, he’s an old man of 44!

      1. Ian Torrence

        Good ‘ole JFK 2007…what an awful race that was. I’m still trying to defy age by ruthlessly picking out my grey chest hairs. Here’s to more “consecutivity!”

  4. Tony Mollica

    Running any race for fifty years in a row is fantastic. The fact the race is the Boston Marathon makes the feat even more impressive.

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