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Fair efforts in foul weather

By John Vellante, Globe Staff 4/18/00

There were thousands of them, and they had as much of a chance as a snowball in you-know-where.

They were the men and women running for personal pride or for a cause. They were the familiar faces being cheered on by families and friends and complete strangers. They're here every year.

They're ``The Pack,'' and they make the Boston Marathon the great race that it is.

And on a day that started cold and got colder with each passing mile, many of them dropped out, unable to cope with the blustery conditions. Many more, though, plodded their way to the finish line, where they sought to share their joy with anyone willing to share it with them.

Then they walked, or shuffled, or were wheeled to the massage tents, where tender fingers kneaded aching muscles. All were wrapped in Mylar blankets and most were shivering and talking through chattering teeth.

Here are some of their stories.

Randy Walker, 41, Windsor, Ontario: ``This was my first Boston and it was a wonderful day. A little cool, but the crowds along the way certainly warmed things up. I've never seen crowds like that along any marathon route. When things get tough and you think you're ready to throw in the towel, they cheer you on to keep going. They were incredible. That's what makes this whole race so special. The fans, the volunteers, and the runners. It's quite a course. Heartbreak Hill was everything I heard it would be. Your quads get pounded. All in all, a great experience.''

Kristie Camp, 24, Provo, Utah: ``My first Boston, and I hope it's not my last. I loved it. A swarm of people everywhere. The cold didn't bother me too much. I actually took my long-sleeve shirt off at about Mile 7 and I just warmed up. The wind at the end, though, was a little chilly. I found the whole course motivating because of the encouragement from the spectators all over. They made me feel like I was winning the race. They certainly know how to spur you on. I knew I wasn't going to win, but those spectators treat you the same as the elite runners.''

Steve Robinson, 27, Irvine, Calif.: ``I knew it was cold, but the adrenaline kicks in and makes it feel a lot warmer than it is. As you got closer to Boston, though, the headwind was real chilling. What amazed me most was the support of the people along the way. Everywhere you looked there were people, and they cheer for you even though they don't know you. There weren't too many spots where it wasn't fully packed. I've run other marathons and have never seen anything like this. Nothing even close. Heartbreak Hill was a killer. There were a couple of hills before that and I thought, `Hey, that wasn't too bad.' Then I hit it and I knew why they call it Heartbreak Hill.''

Susan Stecina, 31, Phoenix: ``My first Boston Marathon and my first trip to Boston and both are everything I was told they'd be. I don't know what the temperature was when we started, but coming from Phoenix, let me tell you, it was freezing. I was very cold at the start and it just kept getting colder. The wind was a factor for me. The crowds were great and that, combined with the fact that this is Boston, made it exciting. I liked the course, I liked the hills, even though they beat up your quads. I had been warned so much about Heartbreak Hill and I just tried to hang in there and not let it get me down. Everyone in the pack sets their own goals and they don't compete with other people, they compete with themselves. Everyone's out to run their own race. This is the only marathon I've ever run, with maybe the exception of New York, where on every inch of the course there's somebody cheering for you. And I'm a complete stranger. It was beyond what I ever imagined.''

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