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124th annual event

Boston Marathon postponement no surprise to area participants

With mid-April race pushed to Sept. 14 due to coronavirus pandemic, most have to refigure training regiments
By Mark Haskell | Mar 29, 2020
Courtesy of: Greg Soutiea Greg Soutiea.

Boston, Mass. — For the past year, thousands of pavement pounders have been diligent in their attempts — with topnotch road race times or selfless community service — to find their way into the field of what many call the most storied 26.2-mile footrace in the world.

That race, of course, is the historic and fabled Boston Marathon, which began in 1896 and was scheduled to hold the 124th running of the event on Monday, April 20.

However, with COVID-19 — or coronavirus — infecting more than a half million people worldwide, the bold decision was made by race officials to push the race back five months, which will now be on Monday, Sept. 14.

Sponsored by the Boston Athletic Association, the race begins in Hopkinton and ends on Boylston Street.

More than 33,000 people worldwide are scheduled to participate in the race, including 200 Mainers and six from the Midcoast.

Those area participants officially listed include: Katherine Collins, 49, of Winterport; Douglas C. Johnstone, 71, of Camden; Abigail Leaming, 30, of Thorndike; Shawn Rumery, 34, of Searsmont; Greg Soutiea, 36, of Spruce Head; and Kathryn Daggett, 51, of Washington.

For Leaming, it will be her first time running the Boston Marathon and her second marathon overall, as she competed in the Philadelphia Marathon in November. She had no plans on attempting to qualify for Boston, but “after experiencing such incredible energy and support from the volunteers during my marathon, I wanted to pay it back, so I signed up to volunteer for Boston.”

“In December, there was an email that went out to all volunteers and runners regarding an opening on the Special Olympics team,” said Leaming. “The interview process included an essay and several phone interviews. Once I was accepted, I learned that I had to raise $10,000 for the Special Olympics organization before April.”

That fundraising deadline has since been extended with the race being postponed to September.

There are three ways runners can participate in the Boston Marathon: By virtue of meeting or finishing faster than the designated qualifying time per age group, entering as a charity runner or one can be given an invitational bib by the B.A.A. based on previous race accomplishments.

For Soutiea, he will run the race for the seventh time in eight years. The owner of the Craignair Inn and Restaurant in Spruce Head. He did not qualify, but rather “was lucky enough to get an invitational bib from the B.A.A.”

Typically an avid runner, Soutiea only competed in one marathon in the past year since the 2019 Boston Marathon, that being the Millinocket Marathon, where he placed seventh. However, Soutiea said the snowy conditions prevented him from finishing within the designated qualifying time.

But, he was able to find a way in, nonetheless.

“Running in the marathon is always one of the best days of the year for me,” he said. “The marathon course as it winds through streets of Newton and Brighton are where I really found myself as a runner while being a new Boston transplant only a few years earlier. I trained on them every day living in Brighton Center. This marathon will always be a sort of homecoming for me."

For the past three years, Soutiea has been part of a rather ambitious group of runners that do the “Double Boston,” meaning he runs the 26.2-mile course backwards from Boylston Street to Hopkinton before running the race with the thousands of other participants.

For Collins, a mother of six, this year’s race will be her third running in the Boston Marathon and sixth marathon overall. She has worked a great deal on her core strength for the event, working out three times a week and logged 200 miles of running per month in January and February.

She qualified for the race by finishing a whopping 20 minutes under her qualifying time for her age group with a terrific performance at the Sugarloaf Marathon on May 19.

Collins called qualifying “an exhilarating feeling of accomplishment.”

“I've done well in many local races in the Bangor area and won the overall women's Sub5 series title 3 times,” she said. “But being able to run the most famous race in the world is a humbling experience. I prefer small races with little worry about parking and bag checks. Boston is overwhelming in terms of logistics; the bib pickup is downtown several days before the race, a ride is necessary to the start and again at the finish, and there are long lines at the bathrooms. It is a difficult course and the weather is rarely ideal. But my feeling is that if I qualify and have the means to do so, I should run it, for the experience must be grasped while I have the ability to do so.”

Daggett’s persistence is what got her into this year’s marathon. Not with her running per se — though she did come within four minutes of qualifying at the Sugarloaf Marathon — but with her unwavering resolve to get herself placed on a charity team.

After three years of inquiries to various organizations, she was finally selected “to my delight and absolute honor” by the Semper Fi Fund, which provides immediate financial support for injured and critically ill members of the US. Armed Forces and their families. “I’m still pinching myself,” she said.

“Me? A local Mainer late in the game of running, nothing special — not fast — just persistent,” she said. "[I] Got the call. I had a phone interview. I promised to raise awareness and support for this amazing charity. They chose me. At that point I was on my fundraising way.”

However, she had to dip into her reserve tank — as runners often do — as she nearly gave up on fundraising, which she admitted had “been challenging.”

Her daughter encouraged her to attempt to fundraise “just one day more.”

“I stopped into Rockland Ford,” she said. “They gave generously both the owner [Tony Esposito] and the dealership itself. They don’t know it, but that fueled me on. I stopped at many places that day. Gifts large and small. Amazing support and encouragement.”

While Daggett, Leaming, Soutiea and Collins made their way into the field of more than 33,000 participants in different ways, the quartet were united in their feeling the postponement of the Boston Marathon was necessary.

While the five-month change will affect their ongoing training timetable and some may worry about how hot it might be in September compared to the often cooler temperatures in April, the local Boston Marathon participants reached have embraced the change.

“The postponing of the race was not surprising,” said Leaming. “My team and I were meeting every couple of weeks in Boston and we heard rumors about a month before the official announcement came out. It's hard to be discouraged by the postponement with the current crisis happening. It’s just what needed to happen.”

“I feel it was a prudent decision,” said Daggett. “I am grateful it is still on. It will now be so much more of a celebration, because we will get through this together and be a stronger community, nation and world.”

“I was surprised the B.A.A. waited as long as they did to make the cancellation, though I know it was not a light decision to make in any regard,” said Soutiea. “I wholeheartedly believe it was the best move for the health and safety of the runners and the city of Boston.”

“The announcement was discouraging, but knowing that it wasn't going to be totally cancelled did help,” said Collins. “Many races were completely cancelled with very little notice."

Collins is the middle school cross-country and outdoor track-and-field coach at All Saints Catholic School in Bangor, while her son, Charlie, is a freshman at Hampden Academy and “one of the best milers in the state.”

And she, like coaches, parents and — well, people — across the state, can only wait and see.

"We simply wait like everyone else to see if this virus and all the shutdowns will end soon and life can resume its normal state," she said.

Greg Soutiea. (Courtesy of: Greg Soutiea)
Kathryn Daggett. (Courtesy of: Kathryn Daggett)
Greg Soutiea. (Courtesy of: Greg Soutiea)
Greg Soutiea. (Courtesy of: Greg Soutiea)
Greg Soutiea. (Courtesy of: Greg Soutiea)
Greg Soutiea. (Courtesy of: Greg Soutiea)
Kathryn Daggett. (Courtesy of: Unites States Marine Corps)
Kathryn Daggett. (Courtesy of: Kathryn Daggett)
Kathryn Daggett. (Courtesy of: CentralMainePhotography.com)
Kathryn Daggett, left, and "coach" Douglas C. Johnstone. (Courtesy of: Kathryn Daggett)
Greg Soutiea. (Courtesy of: Greg Soutiea)
Greg Soutiea. (Courtesy of: Greg Soutiea)
Greg Soutiea. (Courtesy of: Greg Soutiea)
Greg Soutiea. (Courtesy of: Greg Soutiea)
Greg Soutiea. (Courtesy of: Greg Soutiea)
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