Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Monday, April 10, 2017

Best post-Boston Marathon article ever: The year I drank my way to a 2:28:28

This article, which ran in N.H.'s largest newspaper, Manchester Union Leader. in April 2002, is really a fantastic piece of work. Background: I was a mess going into this, having stubbornly overtrained and with no runs longer than three miles at faster than 5:40 pace, making running slightly faster than this in the marathon a comparative triumph.

Beck, Miller best in NH field
After sweating out the forecast, NH runners enjoy mild day
Union Leader

BOSTON — Kevin Beck admitted he had overworked himself preparing for the Boston Marathon.

“I got a little bit fried this spring,” the Concord, N.H., resident said. “I strained myself silly for the best of intentions1. I was doing 140 miles a week for 10 weeks.”

Coming from a runner whose intensity level is second to none amongst New Hampshire runners, Beck’s confession was hardly surprising. Nor was his finish in yesterday’s 106th edition of the Boston Marathon. For the second straight year, Beck was the first Granite Stater across the finish line, this time under cool and cloudy conditions for most of the way, until the sun dared to creep out near his finish.

The 32-year-old school teacher’s2 time of 2 hours 28 minutes 35 seconds was four minutes off his 2001 finish, but it was also his third straight Boston under 2:30 3, as well as his third-best Boston finish4.

New Hampshire’s top female finisher was Strafford’s Liisa Miller, who covered the famed course from Hopkinton to Copley Square in 3:12:14.

The only elite runner from New Hampshire in yesterday’s Boston field, Beck placed 50th overall, 45th among male runners and 39th in the Men’s Open division — down from last year’s 26th-place divisional finish in the country’s most prestigious road race.

Beck knew halfway through the course’s 26.2 miles that last year’s finish was out of the question. “I knew after 13, 14 miles. The signs were there,” he said. “I wasn’t really looking forward to the downhills. I was kind of dreading them. But I held on tough and focused on the things I needed to.”

What Beck needed to do — in addition to protecting his shins on the downhills — was hold off his fiercest competitors from his home state.5

He did.

Beck cited Laconia’s Fergus Cullen, 29, as his main competition. Cullen recovered from a lackluster first 13.1 miles to finish second behind Beck among New Hampshire runners, in 2:38:25 — good for 133rd place overall. Concord’s Chris Carter, 37, as consistent a marathoner as anyone from the Granite State, followed Cullen, in 2:40:19 (175th overall).

Another regular among the top New Hampshire finishers at Boston, North Hampton’s David Bednarek, ran well enough to place fourth in the state standings, but only showing early indications of a much better finish. The 34-year-old, who recently overcame the flu, held second behind Beck until a late-race breakdown that turned a 1:14:47 half-marathon split into a 2:45:06 final time, which dropped him to 260th overall. There was no such drop for Beck, who had some help from the sidelines. He frequently heard his name cheered by strangers along the way, thanks in part to his status as an elite runner and his easy-to-remember bib number (111). He also had familiar faces at different points on the course.

“I had friends from Massachusetts stationed with bottles of wine and punch at (Miles) 8 and 17,” Beck said.6

Stationed at Heartbreak Hill were college students Beck used to coach.

“I heard my name a lot,” he acknowledged.

The cheers were a small boost that helped Beck overcome his overdose of training.

“I just had to step back,” he said. “I came in here pretty tired. I finished four minutes slower this year. It could have been a horror show compared to that.”

Miller’s Boston debut as top New Hampshire woman, meanwhile, was a thing of beauty. A recent transplant from California — she recorded a time of 3:27:24 in last year’s Napa Valley Marathon and first made her mark in New Hampshire by placing third at Derry in January’s Boston Prep 16-Miler — the 36-year-old Strafford resident cut more than 15 minutes off her Napa Valley time.

Miae Jacobs, who two years ago was the top New Hampshire woman at Boston, was second in that category to Miller, but managed to finish as the top female master from the Granite State. The 42-year-old from Atkinson crossed the finish line at 3:15:17.

It was deja-vu Concord’s Amy Ireland Bourgault, 36, who finished third in the state for the second straight year, this time in 3:16:59. Exeter’s Terri Moyer, 40, was fourth, in 3:18:47.

Kingston’s Cindy Army (3:19:21) and Bedford’s Joselle Germano (3:20:14) followed.

Bedford’s Steve Burke was the state’s top men’s masters’ runner, covering the course in 2:46:19. 

1. What I actually said was, “I trained myself silly with the best of intentions.” What was printed in the paper was essentially word salad. But given the context, I doubt anyone besides me noticed or cared. Besides, I was apparently too shitfaced to talk (see footnote #6).

2. I was not a schoolteacher in 2002. No one from the press corps even asked what I was doing for work at the time; had anyone taken this step, I would have told him or her I was employed as a flenser. I’ve always wanted to tell that particular lie.

3. Wrong. This was my third Boston finish, the others coming in 1996 (2:36:11, 211th overall) and 2001 (2:24:17, 29th overall).

4. Wrong again. As the above sentence indicates, 2002 marked my second-best Boston finish in terms of both time and place.

5. Maybe New Hampshire reporters believe this, but it never crossed my mind.

6. What I actually said was “Hawaiian Punch.” Despite the patent absurdity of the idea of someone finishing a marathon in 2:28 half in the bag, I don’t doubt that some of my friends and acquaintances read that eye-opening line of buncombe and muttered, “Figures.”


  1. I bet you there is a good chance that one of them "strangers" that cheered you on could be the Smiley Face Killer. True theory by a couple detectives that a guy is going around Boston bars and throwing drunk guys in the Charles.

  2. Kevin, I am horrible. If you ever see me at a race you can give me one free shot. Just don't break any teeth.