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Boston Marathon Course section

For these reporters, there's legwork to do

By Bill Griffith, Globe Staff, 4/14/2002

Many a media member, in the midst of a long day of Boston Marathon coverage, has been heard to mutter, ''It'd be easier to run in this than it is to cover it.''

On one hand, it is. Come race day, a runner's assignment is straightforward: Put in an intense four-hour day, give or take an hour, running the 26 miles 385 yards for Hopkinton to Boston.

That's just what some of the people who normally bring us the news will be attempting to do tomorrow. NECN's Mark Ockerbloom, WBZ anchor Lisa Hughes, and WCVB traffic reporter (and SmartRoutes general manager) Jeff Larson will be among the 16,954 official entrants who will run the course.

However, to get the day ''off'' tomorrow while their colleagues will be working (most of them covering the Marathon), these three runners sacrificed sleep and family time all winter. Each had to adjust their daily schedule to include a regular training run as well as make time for the dreaded ''long run'' on weekends.

The Boston Marathon is all about tradition, and those media types who make the commitment to run are following in the steps of one of the best, seven-time champion Clarence DeMar, a printer who worked at several Boston newspapers.

Old-timers in the Globe's composing room always maintained that DeMar would run the race, then put in his shift at the Post or Herald.

The lure of the race isn't lost on others, such as former Harvard quarterback and baseball player Mike Lynch, the Channel 5 principal sports anchor.

Lynch figures he only has to tack on ''about 23 miles'' to his daily 3-mile run to reach ''The Holy Grail that's on every runner's radar'' and ''the highlight of every competitor's post-high school athletic career.''

Instead, he will be on the air from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. tomorrow, a marathon stint of live TV.

Anchor finds the water

A year ago, Hughes reported from the women's lead vehicle, taking in the elite athletes' race strategies and marveling at the difference between their running and the daily runs that have been part of her own life for 11 years.

''No matter where I've worked, running is something that's been all mine,'' said Hughes. ''It's a way to clear my head, no matter what shift I'm working. It's beneficial for my health, and you can do it anywhere.''

For Hughes, ''anywhere'' always seems to be next to an ocean, river, or canal.

She started running along the water in Coos Bay, Ore., when she took a job at KCBY. Hughes knew it wasn't a real high-profile spot when her landlord told her he ''loved your French Vanilla,'' mistaking the station's call letters for TCBY Yogurt.

Subsequent jobs let her run along the Boise (Idaho) River, Seattle waterfront, the Potomac, and now the Charles River.

Most of the water she'll see tomorrow will be at the many ''fluid replenishment'' stations on the course, although the route does pass Lake Cochituate in Natick.

Hughes will be running for the American Liver Foundation and, in particular, 5-year-old Catriona Garry of Quincy, who had a liver transplant two years ago and, says Hughes, ''is doing very well.''

She hopes to run with liver foundation training partner Kim Paster. Channel 4 reporters Peg Rusconi and Robin Hamilton also will be in the race.

Satisfying run

A year ago, Larson finished Boston in 3:57. This year, he hopes to pare 20 minutes off that time. ''I've been training hard, doing hills and speedwork,'' he said. ''Then I strained a calf muscle.

''I've been in the hands of a good therapist. Now it only hurts when I'm not running.''

Larson is running to benefit Children's Hospital, and last year was paired with Katie Lynch, both a patient and worker at the hospital.

''When Katie walked her 26 feet 2 inches last year [before a large media contingent], there wasn't a dry eye in the place, '' he said. ''It was as emotional an event as I've seen in my life.'' That pairing worked so well that Larson will run for Lynch again this year.

''She had a setback and won't be able to repeat her walk this year,'' he said. ''So I'm looking to cover for her.''

Larson, who competes in triathlons during the summer, grew up playing basketball at Newton Catholic and, after trying track, quickly switched to tennis in the spring. Even after training for last year's race, he wasn't a fan of running ... until he made the turn onto Boylston Street for the finishing stretch. ''All of a sudden it became one of the greatest days of my life,'' he said.

Larson thought it was neat when Mario Lopez of ABC's ''The Other Half'' decided to run, too.

But many other marathon watchers will think it's neater that Lopez's girlfriend, Ali Landry, is running. She's the former Miss USA who got a lot of pop culture notoriety for her 1998 Super Bowl commercial, catching Doritos in her teeth in a laundromat.

Sibling inspiration

A year ago, Ockerbloom was covering the marathon and also waiting for his older brother, Carl, to finish.

''He is a cancer survivor so the race was a real milestone for him,'' said Mark. ''A year after surgery for colon and liver cancer, he started running.''

It was no surprise that Carl ran to benefit Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. ''It was great to be there and see him finish,'' said Mark.

Perhaps it was seeing Carl finish or perhaps it was just the spectacle of covering the race that motivated Mark.

''I always said I wanted to do it one day,'' he said. ''I ran to stay in shape ever since college. Covering the marathon, you're out there all day and there's a lot of downtime between shots to think about running it.''

So Ockerbloom started training seriously. His wife, Marysia, and daughters Allison (8), Juliana (''She insists on saying she's 41/2''), and Alena (16 weeks) will cheer him on.

''My brother has given me tons of advice, and I've done some long runs with his club, the Winchester Highlanders,'' he said. ''The phrase `One and Done' keeps popping into my head, but my brother says I'll be hooked after running Boston.''

If so, he'll join a lot of others who have caught the marathoning bug over the years.

Ockerbloom isn't the only NECN runner. ''The Phantom Gourmet's'' David Andelman (''The first Andelman to run farther than 15 yards,'' said proud dad Eddie) and ''News Night'' producer Jodi-Tatiana Charles are running this year.

Many media folks have preceded Larson along the route. Among them have been Channel 7's Sean Hennessey and Channel 4's Dan Roche, Ron Sanders, and Sara Underwood.

In 1978, Channel 4 sports director Bob Lobel ran. Since then, he's had a balky knee replaced, but photos of his marathon run still adorn his office.

So for Lobel - and the bulk of the media tomorrow - covering the race may be easier than running it, no matter what they may mutter about their colleagues who are ''taking the day off to run.''

This story ran on page D15 of the Boston Globe on 4/14/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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