Boston Marathon: Fifty Consecutive Times

AJW writes about the longevity in running, including in Ben Beach’s 50 finishes of the Boston Marathon.

By on April 21, 2017 | 14 comments

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?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.