Host of Berkshire County runners brave the weather to run in 2018 Boston Marathon
Running a marathon can be a grueling, torturous chore. When that marathon is held in the northeast, it runs the risk of only being more brutal. When it is the coldest Boston Marathon in 30 years, it can be a truly harrowing experience.
That it what the 29,978 registered runners who started in Hopkinton and finished on Boylston Street faced Monday at the 2018 Boston Marathon. It was a cold and wet day to the point of rampant hypothermia. The Boston Red Sox postponed their annual Patriots Day game against the Baltimore Orioles. The conditions in Eastern Massachusetts were too poor for professional baseball players. For a host of local athletes from Berkshire County, though, it would take more than 20 mile-per-hour winds, sub 40-degree temperatures and driving rain to keep them from pounding out 26.2 miles.
Amelia Wood, a North Adams native and Drury/MCLA graduate, who now lives in Oakland, Calif. had hoped the weather would turn, but stuck it out anyway for her first Boston Marathon.
"It's funny because everybody does something different. We saw someone on the train who fashioned socks out of a foil blanket," said Wood, who credited her pit crew for taking care of her on a really tough day. "A lot of people ductaping shoes, wearing trash bags. I wore everything that I brought with me. I knew several layers would help keep my body heat in. I wore the Boston Marathon jacket that I bought at the expo, and a baseball hat because the rain was coming in from all angles."
The conditions were unlike anything the Boston Athletic Association had seen in about 30 years. Which was further illustrated by the day's victors. Tatyana McFadden (2 hours, 4 minutes and 39 seconds) and Marcel Hug (1:46:26), winners of the women's and men's push rim wheelchair divisions posted the slowest winning times in 30 or more years. Desiree Linden, who won the women's run in 2:39:54 was the first American woman to win Boston in 33 years. Yuki Kawauchi, who won the men's run in 2:15:58, was the first Japanese man to win in 31 years.
The rain, wind and temperature slowed them, but it didn't stop them.
It also didn't stop the more than 20 Berkshire County runners who crossed the finish line in anywhere from three to six hours.
"I did wear a rain coat, but I don't know that there was anything you could do to counter that," said finisher Nicole Shepardson of Lenox. "You started wet, you stayed wet, and it just felt like it never stopped."
Abigail Wright, who won last summer's Fourth of July 5K in Pittsfield, was the top local finisher in 3:09:42.
"She ran Hartford last fall and I guess her training cycle went well," said Kent Lemme of Berkshire Running Center. "We were out by Mile 17 and she kind of went flying by us, and she looked strong, she looked smooth. She was definitely racing it and feeling good."
Lemme and his wife Shiobbean were on hand once again to cheer on Western Massachusetts runners, many of whom partially train with Berkshire Running Center.
The 23-year-old Wright placed 3,282nd overall with a mile split of 7:15. She nailed down the first 5K in 22:32 and hit the halfway point in 1:34:46. Wright was consistent, with no splits coming in over 7:43 or under 7:03.
Paul Gage of Cheshire was next, followed by John Kemp of Sheffield, Jake Eberwein of Dalton and Ken Bilodeau of Becket. In all, 11 of the local runners finished Boston in less than four hours, an impressive feat in such brutal conditions.
"I'm used to training in the Berkshires with some pretty cold, wet weather and I feel like I'm typically pretty hardy, but it was a detriment today," said Shepardson, who despite all of that finished in 3:54:41. "It was very difficult to maintain speed and energy. It took a mental toll on me."
Eberwein ran his second ever marathon at the age of 52. Kemp had planned to run a double, starting at the finish line and traversing the course to the start and back.
Matt Kinnaman of Lee, who finished in 3:50:37 was hit hard by the cold, but powered through the keep a streak going of running Boston. Elizabeth St Clair of Williamstown did the same to maintain her streak.
"I think when you throw that wind in there," said Lemme of when the weather starts becoming a detriment. "I ran my fastest marathon on a day that was 42 degrees and a light drizzle.
"But there wasn't a driving head wind and it wasn't drenching rain. Everything that you're wearing becomes completely soaked and you've got 22 mile-per-hour wind from the east just killing your muscles. It was a horrible stew for marathoning."
Shepardson was running her third marathon, but first in Boston — a dream she has held for quite some time.
"This was pretty exciting to have a whole crowd and entire city gather around," said Shepardson, who had her full family staying in the city with her. "I've run all my life and really fallen in love with the training and long runs. Boston is something I've always wanted to do, so I feel extremely lucky that I had the opportunity to run today."
It was rough as well for spectators, but that didn't stop them from showing out on the five-year anniversary of the bombing tragedy that scarred 2013's race. The Boston Marathon is more than an athletic competition. Something Wood always knew from afar growing up in the Berkshires, but experienced firsthand in 2018.
Wood, who threw off an ineffective poncho at mile 10, ran for Boston Children's Hospital's Miles for Miracles team and will now complete the Boston 2 Big Sur Marathon Challenge with a race on April 26 back in California. She is running in remembrance of her late nephew Carrick, who battled leukemia and heart failure with the aid of BCH before passing in June.
"My sister and family were at Mile 2. I also had friends in Natick at Mile 10 and then some people at the finish, and I was telling them, this is the best cheering I've had in a marathon, and I've done six," said Wood, who reached her goal fundraising mark of $8,000. "A lot of people really cheering their hearts out.
"I was just shocked by how many people showed up. I thought with it being such a nasty day there wouldn't be much of a turnout. But especially by Hopkinton and Ashland, those spots were full of people. It was just the distraction I needed to get through the cold and wet. The spectators were really what pushed me through."
Shepardson echoed that sentiment:"The fans are amazing, it's such an honor to be here in Boston with the history and the passion that goes into this race."
The Lemmes were part of that specatorship, as the hub of running in Berkshire County was as well-represented in the crowd as it was on the course.
For most of the marathoners, today is a day off, but they'll be back pounding pavement later this week. Boston marks the beginning of the season, not the end.
Locally, Berkshire Running Center will host the upcoming sold-out Steel Rail Half Marathon and 8K on May 21, which Shepardson and others will join. BRC will also be helping the Elizabeth Freeman Center host the Mother's Day Race, put on this summer's Charity Chug Run and the popular Green Mile on June 21, which will benefit Operation Copsicle.
Local finishers — Abigail Wright (Pittsfield) 3:09:42; Paul Gage (Cheshire) 3:25:14; John Kemp (Sheffield) 3:28:00; Jake Eberwein (Dalton) 3:29:19; Ken Bilodeau (Becket) 3:40:21; David Wilson (Lanesborough) 3:44:19*; Matt Kinnaman (Lee) 3:50:37; Nicole Shepardson (Lenox) 3:54:41; Jennifer Bell (Dalton) 3:54:57; Nicole Armbrust (Williamstown) 3:56:07; Tami Grady (Pittsfield) 3:57:39; Carmel Kushi (Pittsfield) 4:04:51; Elizabeth St Clair (Williamstown) 4:10:46; Joseph Gwozdz (Cheshire) 4:15:20; Amelia Wood (North Adams) 4:22:23; Edward Culver (Lenox) 4:22:33; Cassie Lincoln (Clarksburg) 4:29:23; Mary Kennedy (Williamstown) 4:31:20; Hank Art (Williamstown) 5:12:40; Allison Lassoe (Sheffield) 5:19:41; Jacqueline Lemieux (Williamstown) 6:11:27.
Mike Walsh can be reached at email@example.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-4966240.
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