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Another way of looking at marathon's charity component

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff  April 24, 2012 01:40 PM

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I hadn't planned to run another Boston Marathon until I made a qualifying time, but when offered a number this winter by a director of a charity organization that had received only two of this precious commodity, I gladly accepted the opportunity to donate and raise money in exchange.

I came within a few minutes of qualifying in recent years, but the new qualifying times made my quest to qualify less likely. But that wasn't why I accepted. The ripple of backlash against the charity component of the race from qualifiers and running snobs that arose when the BAA entry process was oversubscribed in the fall of 2010 brought out the long-lost populist in me.

Not only does the program raise well north of $10 million annually for local charities (and more than $120 million since its inception in 1989), but it was through this program that I first entered Boston in 2005 and quickly caught the marathoning bug. I've now run 10 total, including six marathons across the country that need us more mediocre runners to fill their fields and their host cities' hotel rooms and restaurants.

On the eve of this year's event I was reminded of the scarlet letter us non-qualifiers carried in a heat advisory email from the BAA, "It is our recommendation that anyone entered in the marathon who has not met the qualifying standards for their age and gender strongly consider not running ..."

Harrumph. But as I muddled through the hottest marathon I've attempted and, like fellow runners, focused on the water/Gatorade stops, I noticed that many of the overheated volunteers spread across the eight communities that make up this logistically unique nightmare of a marathon wore shirts or hats indicating the charity for whom they were affiliated. Tufts University, the Liver Foundation, Griffin's Friends and many more.

I had previously failed to realize that the charities did so much more than raise money.

They were part of the backbone of the marathon, a benefit to all runners, qualifiers and non-qualifiers.

Ben Starr, 45, is a veteran marathoner who lives in Beacon Hill with his wife and two children.

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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