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Boston Marathon Course section

Here, they are on a run

'Streakers' rack up finishes

By Tony Chamberlain, Globe Staff, 4/12/2001

Born to run
Athletes who have completed 26 or more consecutive Boston Marathons:
34Neil Weygandt54Drexel Hills, Pa.
33Bennett Beach51Bethesda, Md.
31Martin Duffy60Belmont
29Bruce Migell67Newton
28Dave McGillivray46Middleton
28Ed Sandifer49Newtown, Conn.
27Doug White58Hockessin, Del.
27Ronald Kmiec58Carlisle
27Russell Gill49Columbus, Ohio
27Joseph Shea70Sagamore Beach
26Thomas Homeyer52Tully, N.Y.

ennett Beach, 51, can scarcely remember the college days when he ran the Boston Marathon as a member of the Kisco Kiwis, a mythological running club that took its name from a gang of table hockey players in Quincy House, his dorm at Harvard.

He has a little trouble with his knee these days, and after the Cherry Blossom race in Washington D.C. last Sunday, his Achilles' felt a little sore.

But he has little doubt that, with a bit of luck Monday, he'll cross the finish line for the 34th consecutive time in the Boston Marathon.

''Some people just have a one-track mind, and I'm one of them,'' said Beach, editor of the Wildlife Society Journal, a job that relocated him to Bethesda, Md., where he lives with his wife, Carol, and three children. ''I'm loyal to the old school, and I like to hang onto things.''

Beach is No. 2 on one of the most exclusive Boston Marathon lists - the ''streakers'' - runners with the most consecutive Bostons under their belts.

The list includes Neil Weygandt, who at 54 will run his 35th straight this year. And Carlton Mendell, 79, from Portland, Maine, will try to notch consecutive finish No. 24.

Of the 10,000 runners who gallop and gasp from Hopkinton to Boston, only 16 will have finished at least 25 consecutive runs by Monday night.

Johnny Kelley started 61 and finished 58 Boston runs. He completed 24 straight from 1969-92.

But only two runners have reached 30 straight, and Beach is one of them. Records appeal to him. Beach may be the only T rider in history to board the first train in the morning and ride all day until the last train at night, fueled only by a box of Cap'n Crunch cereal.

The story of his MBTA marathon appeared in the Harvard Crimson, of which he was a sports editor known to fill his entire section with his own stories, written under bylines of his name translated into various languages.

''There are so many reasons to keep coming back to Boston,'' said Beach. ''I just love the city, and I still have many friends around. It's a great experience just to do it. I'm not fast. I just go out and put one foot in front of the other.''

Beach remembers when he got the marathon bug, and it works out of his theory that if an athlete could do anything else - such as shoot baskets or hit a baseball - he wouldn't be running.

''I got cut from the JV baseball team after all my friends had gotten big and strong,'' he said. ''So I was looking around for something else.''

One day as he was watching runners from a window in bad weather, it came to him. ''I thought that is the craziest thing I could imagine, so I resolved to do it.''

Never fast, Beach said the only occasion he took his finishing time seriously is when the Crimson newspaper team was running against the Yale Daily News, though he seems to remember Yale never showed up.

And little by little, a streak was taking shape, though it was nearly broken in 1971, Beach's fourth year running Boston. He had severe knee problems that year and couldn't train. Beach almost pulled out before deciding to at least get to Hopkinton for the start.

His plan, as the pain kicked up early, was to drop out and ride the straggler bus to Boston, but because the bus was late, Beach worked out the pain and got himself started again, running all the way to the finish.

''I just kept going and the injury went away,'' he said. ''That's the only time I came close to not finishing.''

Everyone has his own reason for persisting in a race such as Boston, with all its hidden obstacles. But for Lenny Silvia, a 54-year-old postal carrier from Westport, Mass., who will mark his 25th Boston this year, the point is the apres-run party.

''I had no object in mind when I started,'' said Silvia, whose work keeps him walking all day, ''but a lot of my friends come up from Fall River. They drop me off and meet me at the end. We go back to the hotel and party all night.''

Of the running itself, ''I hate it and love it,'' Silvia said. ''I trained about 175 miles in March but only 15 to 20 miles a week the rest of the year.''

Silvia, who is on the board of directors of the Thomas Chew Boys and Girls Club of Fall River, runs some other races sporadically, mostly for good causes. But a trained runner?

''No, I don't run a lot,'' he said. ''I don't know about the streak. It doesn't mean that much to me, but I keep on doing it. I love my beer, so running helps keep my weight down.''

At 5 feet 9 inches and 160 pounds, Silvia has not added any weight over the years and still can trip the clock at sub 3:35, fast enough, he hopes, to keep his qualification number.

Five years ago, he did not train at all because of illness and still ran a 4:57. ''You have to do some training to run it,'' said Silvia.

Fourth on the list is race director Dave McGillivray, who, at 46, will try for his 29th straight finish. But McGillivray, who in 1978 ran across the United States to raise money for charity, has a different style and approach. Most years he runs the race alone, using the headlights of a police cruiser to show him the way.

The reason? As race director, he has to ride the route ahead of the pack. Then, when most runners have finished, he travels back to Hopkinton in a cruiser and starts his own run at around 4 o'clock.

Running his usual 3:05 pace, McGillivray has a little daylight, even late in the race. But on nights when he gets a late start, the cruiser stays with him, lighting the way through the darkened streets.

The route takes him through Brookline, where the marathon parties are in full swing. Some nights he gets ribbed for being such a slacker. ''People have no idea,'' he said.

McGillivray's determination began early. When he was 16, his grandfather waited at Brookline's Coolidge Corner for him to finish his first Boston, not knowing he had dropped out with blisters.

''Afterwards, he told me that if I trained I could finish this race and that he would be waiting for me again next year,'' said McGillivray. But his grandfather died a few months later, and he was buried in a Brighton cemetery along the marathon route.

''So we both kept our promise,'' said McGillivray. ''I ran the race the next year, and he was there in spirit at about the 21.5-mile mark.''

McGillivray, after starting work before dawn on Marathon day, is mentally and physically exhausted by the time he starts his race. But after running a few miles in relative peace and quiet, he says it becomes enjoyable. ''I put it on automatic pilot and cruise along,'' he said. ''I kind of like the peace and solitude, but I would trade the time for the regular race.''

McGillivray races other marathons, such as New York, and sees from the middle of the pack how they are organized and executed. He is always looking to improve Boston. ''Seeing it from the middle is a whole different world from riding up front in a car,'' he said.

This story ran on page 01 of the Boston Globe on 4/12/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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